Phenix City likely to see utility rate increase

The Phenix City Council is expected to vote on a proposal to raise the water and sewer rates for the city.

The council this morning listened to explanations from Utilities Director Greg Glass and City Finance Director Stephen Smith about why the increase is needed.

The increase, if the council votes to approve a resolution at next Tuesday's council meeting, would be on average less than $4 a month per customer. It would be the city's first rate increase since 2002.

"Residents will see an increase of between $3 and $3.50 on average," said Smith. "That's not to say the bill couldn't be higher or lower depending on the usage by the customer. An elderly couple that does not use a lot of water will have a lower water bill than a household that has a swimming pool. But the $3 to $3.50 figure is the average."

The city is experiencing increases across the board in the water system, with those power, chemicals and wages being key cost factors. Glass said the city's wastewater operation is operating at a negative revenue situation.

"We definitely need some infusion of money into that program," Glass said. "We don't need to break even, we certainly don't need to lose money. But because of some of the conditions that exist at our wastewater treatment plant ... We haven't invested any money down there since 1994 and we're up for an evaluation by ADEM next year." The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is the state agency that regulates water systems.

In addition to the operational costs, the city is facing the need to improve an aging water distribution system, most of which has been in the ground for more than 70 years.