Evans objects to water/sewer rate hike

Immediately after the passage of the 2008-2009 budget ordinance at Monday evening’s Henderson City Council meeting, Assistant Finance Director Sandra Wilkerson began discussion of an ordinance setting water and sewer rates for the next fiscal year.

Wilkerson told members that the ordinance contained a 5% water rate increase and a 10% sewer increase. She noted that the increase in the water rate had been reduced from an originally proposed 7%.

The increase in the water rate will increase the cost from 1.95 cents per cubic foot to 2.10 cents. The rise in the sewage rate will increase the cost from 4.64 cents to 5.10 cents per cubit foot.

A customer who uses 1,000 cubic feet of water per month and has sewer service would pay a total $92.87 per month, including the $27 sanitation charge. Under new pricing, that same customer can expect to pay approximately $97 per month, with the sanitation charge being reduced to $25 per month for the reduction to once-weekly pickup.

Council member Mary Emma Evans lodged an immediate objection, stating that she still can’t see how people who can’t afford were getting help. She went on to say that she had received six calls from people saying that they had been to city hall only to be told the same things they had been told in the past.

Evans claimed that one woman who had not had water in almost a year had been denied because she had [illegally] turned on the water to flush the commodes.

City Attorney Billy Strickland reiterated that the Water Department is amenable to arrangements. He also noted that the city has one-half to three-quarters of a million dollars in unpaid bills and stolen water that it is not realizing.

Strickland said that there was one instance where animal control has to go to a house for water-related issues because the occupant has three Rottweilers “on top of the meter”.

Evans responded that Strickland had not lived [in Henderson] “long enough to know what I’m talking about”.

“We should not be comfortable with people living in these conditions,” Evans said.

Council member Mike Rainey noted that the Kerr Lake Regional Water System had raised its rate by 5% and that the city has expenses it must pay. He also said that those who make a special effort should continue to get water.

After the ordinance was introduced and passed by unanimous vote, the Reverend C.J. Dale voiced his opposition to the rate hike during the public comments portion of the meeting.

“I am totally appalled,” Dale said, referring to the passage of the water and sewer rate ordinance.

Dale said that Evans was the only member of the council who was an advocate for the citizens. He criticized Strickland and Interim City Manager Ed Wyatt as well, stating that they “have no ties here”.

Dale told members that there should have been more “dialog and negotiation”. He emphasized that he was “not talking about the ones trying to manipulate the system”.

Dale concluded his remarks by stating that the council “needs to rescind this thing”.