Pending approval from the Gainesville City Council, water rates in Hall County are likely on the rise.
But the good news, according to Gainesville Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall, is that the rate hike isn't quite as high as originally expected.
On Thursday, Randall proposed raising water rates by 4 percent and sewer rates by 4.25 percent beginning in January.
An original proposal called for both water and sewer rates to rise by 4.25 percent in the coming year.
Council members, however, were not happy with the original proposal.
"We got strong indication (in late March) that you wanted us to go back and see if we couldn't lower that water rate increase," Randall said. "We did do that."
Under the proposal Randall presented Thursday, sewer rates would rise to $7.01 per 100 cubic feet, except for Oakwood sewer customers, who would pay $8.31 per 100 cubic feet of wastewater.
For customers inside the city limits, water rates would rise to $2.37 for the first 100 cubic feet of water used. Customers outside the city limits would pay $4.74 for the same amount beginning in January.
An account servicing fee the utility charges will be lowered on July 1 from $7.66 to $6.44.
The rates help pay for big-ticket items that keep the utility up to speed with development.
Though development has slowed in the county, the utility still has to plan financially to build a water treatment plant at the Cedar Creek Reservoir and continue paying loans on previously
A spending plan for the utility's big-ticket needs shows some $102 million in planned projects for the next five years.
Mostly, the money in the plan is promised for a future water treatment plant at Cedar Creek Reservoir and an ongoing need to move water and sewer lines out of the way for planned road expansions, Randall said.
In previous years, capital improvement plans for the utility showed more than $200 million in capital needs, Randall said.
"We have continued to tighten our belts," Randall said.
Some of the expenditures could be put off if Georgia's appeal of a 2009 ruling limiting Gainesville's access to Lake Lanier is successful.
Attorneys for the state have told Randall a ruling on the appeal could happen any day, he said.
The decision could affect the rate at which water rates climb in future years as it gives city officials a better idea of how quickly the facility needs to be built.
The council will decide whether to adopt the rates at its 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday.