At Monday’s meeting of Roanoke Utilities Board, the 2022-2023 budget was approved but not before unanimous agreement to a rate increase.
“We’ve got to make some type of adjustment to meet all these rising costs,” said board chairman Ronald Cameron.
The increase is necessary for the board to stay within its operating guidelines and meet mandates from state and federal agencies, including the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), along with the rising cost of supplies. The rate increase for residential service will be $4.25 a month for water and $4.25 for sewer. The increase total on monthly bills will be a total of $8.50. The minimum monthly cost will be $30 per month.
The budget shows an estimated operating revenue of $3,859,689, non-operating revenue is $40,000 and total operating expenses are $3,812,663. The ending balance will be $87,026.
Chairman Cameron said if the board didn’t set the rates so the board could meet its debt ratio, USDA could come in and set the rates, and no one would have any control over the rates.
Board member Walter Sudduth said something had to be done to keep their heads above the water. He said, “We are providing a service, and we’ve got to stay in business.”
An example of a mandate from ADEM is the inspection, wash-out, painting and needed repairs of three water tanks and the clear well. The estimated cost for the first year will be some $10,614. Southern Corrosion will handle the maintenance, and estimates a total of $71,750 for each of the four tanks each year through 2043. A representative from Southern Corrosion will attend the board meeting in October. The board is required to submit an inspection report to ADEM by Oct. 1 and will have five years to get all tanks in compliance. After the work is complete, the board is going to require pictures or some other proof to show the work has been completed. It was noted in the meeting that this is yet another government mandate with no money to help pay for it.
Another expense is the rising cost of supplies, chemicals for the treatment plant, pipes and other supplies needed out on the job. The charge for chlorine has gone up more than $2 per pound and more than $1 dollar per pound for sodium sulfate.
Manager Pam Bonner said the water plant supervisor is having trouble getting the chemicals and has come close to running out. She said, “Last week some of our employees had to drive to Alexander City to borrow some alum due to the delayed shipment of what was ordered.”
Chairman Cameron said it looks as though the chemicals will jump from some $69,000 to more than $100,000.
Sudduth added, “If anyone doesn’t like the rate increase, they need to come look at the budget.”
Water and sewer taps
The board was informed that rates for water taps are costing the board money. At present the cost for residential is $1,000 for water and $450 for sewer.
“We need to think about the cost of labor and supplies and base the connect rates according to the cost at each location,” said Cameron. “We are a lot cheaper than the county, but they don’t offer sewer connection. At the rate we are going, we can’t stay in business.”
The board agreed to look at a possible rate increase for taps and make a decision at the October meeting.
In other business, the board:
- Approved $7,950 for the purchase of equipment for cutting around the lagoon. The equipment will be attached to the excavator.
- Heard insurance rates will rise to $79,971 for 2023 with a $3 million limit.
- Heard power cost was $199,897 in 2022, up some $7,400 from 2021.
- Approved the purchase of a new computer and operating system for the water plant.
- Approved the purchase of a new computer and operating system for the board office.
- Was informed of a major leak due to a lightning strike at the College Street water tank. The tank was down two days, but there were no complaints about low water pressure.
- Was informed that painting of fire hydrants would begin soon. The hydrants will be painted yellow.
- Approved the purchase of a new ice machine for the employee shop.
- Met in a short executive session to discuss an employee evaluation.