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Rockwood utility bills to rise

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood Water, Sewer and Natural Gas customers can expect to pay more soon.

Rockwood City Council approved first reading of an ordinance to increase rates at their meeting Monday, at the request of Rockwood, Water, Sewer and Natural Gas officials.

“The board looked at several options trying to make it an increase our customers could handle,” said manager Kim Ramsey to the Council.

The increase would make customers who use 201 cubic feet of water to 1,000 cubic feet of water go from $3.58 per 100 cubic feet to $3.76 per 100 cubic feet for inside rates. Outside rates for the same customers would go from $6.26 to $6.57 and South Roane County customers with that usage would go from $6.67 to $7.

One cubic foot is the equivalent of 7.48 gallons.

“Our intent in choosing this particular rate proposal is it protects our customers that are base-rate customers,” Ramsey said. “We felt that might help some of our customers that may be on a fixed income.”

The increase doesn’t affect base-rate water customers, but it does raise the sewer rate from 150 percent of a customer’s water bill to 160 percent.

Ramsey said it was the first rate increase in three years. Shortly after she became manager, the board passed a large rate increase when faced with financial difficulty.

The water and sewer department had been paying back the more lucrative gas department after the state opined the interdepartmental loans were illegal. Those loans were paid back early.

The department also had an order from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation demanding the utility make upgrades to its wastewater plant. The department is continually doing upgrades on the aging system.

Councilwoman Peggy Evans regularly took the former management and board to task for its management and spending, but she made the motion to pass first reading of the ordinance.

“The difference in it now than what it was say four years ago is tremendous,” Evans said of the utility.

“What she has done with the help of the board has been just unreal,” Evans added.

Councilman Mike Freeman said sometimes rate increases are necessary.

“I’d like to see a small increase along the way instead of another 30 percent down the road,” Freeman said.

Councilman James Nuckols agreed: “In the past, where we kind of got in trouble is not adjusting the rates.”