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By JENNIFER RAYMOND
A 15-year plan for the Rockwood Wastewater Plant was shot down at a recent city council meeting.
When the vote took place to adopt the plan, which includes upgrades and improvements to the plant, Councilmembers Ray Collett, Gene East and Dudley Evans said they needed more time and passed.
More deliberation is needed because included in the plan is a way to pay for the projects, which includes rate increases for customers, they said.
Councilman James Neal, who also sits as the representative on the Rockwood Water, Wastewater and Natural Gas board, brought the plan to the council.
"I'm kind of between a rock and a hard place," Neal said.
The proposed plan would include rate increases at each phase, which is broken into five-year increments.
"I can't remember the last rate increase," Neal said.
The plan is projected to cost $8.15 million, with some aid in the form of grants and help at the state and federal levels.
Many of the improvements involve controlling discharge limits of nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorous set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The last phase would move the discharge from the treatment plant to a larger body of water other than Black Creek.
The first phase will look at setting up a new rate structure, according to General Manager Rod King.
As it stands now, the wastewater budget is in the red by $480,796. To make up for the deficit in wastewater, the utility would need to raise the water rates to break even.
Residential customer would have a rate increase of 150 percent, commercial rates would increase 175 percent, and industrial customers would see an increase of 200 percent.
A minimum bill for residential customers would increase about $4.42 a month.
For commercial, it would increase about $6.42 a month, and industrial customers bill would increase $8.53 a month.
To pay for the loan needed for that phase, a 3-percent across-the-board increase would also be required.
The second phase would require an increase of 2 percent for all rates to pay for another loan.
Neal explained that these numbers are not set in stone, but the board needs to have a plan of how to pay for the improvements.
The increases would occur when the first phase is implemented, which Neal gave a time table of sometime in the next year and a half.
"If we wait, the state will come in and tell us how much we have to raise them," Neal said.
He said he and the board are hoping to be proactive and allow it to be in their hands, not the state's.
"They don't think we can do this with this small increase," Neal said. "I think we can."
One of Evans' main concerns was the major rate increase.
"That's a big increase," he said later.
Neal said he doesn't see any other way and needs more help with ideas.
"I don't know what else to do," Neal said.
Neal asked the council for help, and council agreed to set up a work session at 5 p.m. July 7.