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Hall residents could soon be paying more for sewer
County officials say they're trying to offset rising service costs, slower growth rates
Resident Phyllis Mercer talks about her concerns over proposed sewer rate increases during the Hall County Board of Commissioners work session Monday.

Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting

What: Vote on increasing sewer rates
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Hall County Government Center, second floor meeting room, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Sewer billing rates for Hall County residents, particularly those in South Hall, might increase in November to offset rising service costs and slower growth rates.

The proposed rate hikes, which the Hall County Board of Commissioners will vote on Thursday, are designed to stabilize revenue.

But residents of the Village at Deaton Creek subdivision have called for commissioners to consider a long-term strategic plan to increase sewer users and pay off debt on the Spout Springs Water Reclamation Facility, which the county purchased from a developer in 2008 for $14.5 million.

“It is obvious that the county needs a better financial plan,” resident Phyllis Mercer told the commissioners during a work session Monday. “We feel that you owe us answers on how you’re going to make the system financially sound without continuing financial impact to our pocketbooks.”

Sewer connection fees are expected to drop off in the next fiscal year, according to Public Works Director Ken Rearden, as development slows in some South Hall subdivisions.

For example, there are only a handful of homes left to be built in Deaton Creek.

The proposed sewer rates are based on volume use, with a cap set at 14 ccf, or hundreds of cubic feet. One Ccf equals about 748 gallons. 

Additional proposed cost increases include service rates for reclaimed water.

Commissioners are considering raising this to $3 per 1,000 gallons from $2.

“We’re still not breaking even on that revenue stream,” Rearden said.

And a monthly customer service charge will cost $2, while a monthly capacity charge of $15 will be applied.

Finally, a commodity charge is proposed to increase from $3.50 to $7.39.

There are about 2,500 sewer users on the South Hall system, and Mercer said residents cannot continue to pay for the cost of the reclamation facility without reasonable, steady rate structures going forward.

In 2012, commissioners approved sewer rates with the expectation that most residents would pay less, but Mercer criticized officials for not addressing debt and declining revenue at that time. 

She applauded county officials for renegotiating the debt and cutting operational costs later on, but added that continued rate increases must be replaced with a growth in users.

It’s “not as fair as I think it should be to low-volume users,” she said of the proposed rates for the next year.

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