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Rogersville may tie water hikes to cost of living index

March 13th, 2014 11:19 pm by Jeff Bobo

Rogersville may tie water hikes to cost of living index

ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville leaders may decide next month to begin implementing gradual water rate hikes to keep up with a cost of living index, as opposed to major hikes every decade or so as occurred last year.

It's an idea presented to the Rogersville Water Commission last month by water superintendent Sean Hatchett.

The goal is to increase the water rate annually at the same rate the cost of living increases, plus one percent.

Rogersville Alderman Mark Dewitte, who also sits on the Water Commission, said the proposal was also recommended two years ago by M-TAS (the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service).

"The idea is to have small, less painful increases every year, and not throw a 22 percent increase at consumers all at once every 10 years or so," Dewitte said.

Tuesday night the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen was presented with a proposal giving the Water Commission the authority to tie water rates to the current year's cost of living increase, plus one percent for expenses and growth.

The cost of living this year is 1.5 percent, which means this year's proposed water rate increase would be 2.5 percent.

With that increase, the average Rogersville water customer's bill would be $1.35 higher per month.

"What we're trying to avoid is adding the $10 to the water bill that we added last year," Dewitte said. "Some years the cost of living is near flat, and in a very rare year it's negative. The Water Commission looked at it as a business decision because the Water Department is a business. We have expenses like everybody else does, and we have to keep up with maintenance and the price of everything going up."

The proposal presented to the BMA Tuesday was to allow the Water Commission the option of rejecting the cost of living increase any given year at its discretion.

City Attorney Bill Phillips noted, however, that the water rate has to be set by resolution.

As a result, any change to the current rate structure would have to be established on an annual basis, with no option for not having an increase at the Water Commission's discretion.

The BMA asked Phillips to draft a resolution for next month's BMA meeting calling for a permanent rate structure change to the cost of living format.

The Water Commission will vote at its next meeting whether to recommend that proposal, and that recommendation will be forwarded to the BMA when it considers the new resolution in April.

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