Russellville’s City Council voted unanimously Tuesday not to pass along the recent water rate increase handed down from Logan Todd Regional Water Commission (LTRWC).
The commission voted to raise the rate by 8 cents per 1,000 gallons, which will go into effect March 1, 2013.
LTRWC, which gets its water from the Cumberland River and processes it at a state-of-the-art facility in Guthrie, acts as a wholesaler while the individual water districts and municipalities- including the City of Russellville- act as retailers. All water in Logan County comes from LTRWC.
Russellville Mayor Mark Stratton addressed the increase at the Tuesday, Dec. 18 council meeting. Stratton said he received the letter from the commission about the increase and was going to read a statement. “We will either agree, fight, argue, slug it out, or come to a conclusion,” said the mayor to his council in a whimsical way.
The statement is as follows:
“On Nov. 27, the City of Russellville received a letter from Logan Todd Regional Water Commission, referencing the wholesale water rate increase of 2 percent. It is my suggestion to the Russellville City Council that this increase not be passed along to the Russellville water customers.
“The City of Russellville, over the past 23 months, has strived to cut internal costs while producing the service the citizens deserve. As the city absorbs this increase, we will continue to practice better business decisions in our water/sewer budget. As a city, it is our duty to exhaust all options before passing along any rate increase. We will continue to monitor our expenditures and costs in order to keep from applying rate increases. The city will continue to offer the senior discount that is currently in place.
“The city encourages all customers to continually check for water leaks and breaks on their property. These leaks or breaks cause a slow but steady increase in their water usage. The city will continue to use our leak protection devise to discover any leaks in the city supply lines. Together we can manage our water,” said Mayor Stratton.
Stratton told his council the city of Russellville is fortunate enough and are being better stewards and it was his strong suggeston that the city absorb the increase. All council members agreed. Councilman Jimmy Davenport made a motion reflecting such. His motion was seconded by Pat Bell.
Bell said she felt the Logan Todd Regional Water Commission needed to get out there and find additional customers, which would drive down costs of the water. She stated that when they came to the council when she served before, they talked that they were going to try and get different entities and companies to help lower the bill.
“I know we don’t really have a lot of say-so in it, but they need somebody out there beating the streets or whatever. Maybe a group of people need to go to a meeting. Something needs to be done. These people are in that position to do something,” said Bell.
City attorney Niel Kerr said, “What is their incentive right now?”
Councilwoman Sandra Kinser spoke up for the commission saying, “I think they tried to refinance their bonds and they couldn’t get them refinanced to try to lower their expenses, and I do think they are trying.”
Stratton feels the issue is a catch 22. The less you use, the more it costs.
Stratton said the letter from LTRWC says, “Please be assured that this decision to raise our wholesale rates followed thorough analysis of our operating costs and deliberation on usage trends. Our operating budget for 2013 is based on 3.8 million gallons a day instead of 4.0 as in recent past. Efforts to contain these costs will continue.”
“If we keep water usage low, they’re going to keep jacking our prices up. There’s got to be a stopping point somewhere,” said Bell.
Councilman Jimmy Davenport was hoping the project in Clarksville was going to help the situation. At one time the LTRWC hoped they would be able to sell water to Clarksville, in part because of the location of a new factory between Clarksville and Guthrie. This has not transpired.
One of the reasons the City of Russellville can buffer the increase is due in part from its newly acquired leak detection devise, which has saved thousands of unaccounted for water loss over the past few months.
“We’ve reduced out initial purchases in gallons from 28 million to 21.5 million,” said Wayne Thomas, the city’s utilities director.
“I applaud the council and I appreciate this,” said Mayor Stratton.
Councilman Bill Decker said, “Let’s hope that Logan Todd will be able to take a lesson and do their own evaluation as we have and follow that lead and maybe they can trim some cost to help eat some of these rate increases. I think that’s where it needs to start.”
The 2 percent calculates to an approximate increase of $26,000 a year for the City of Russellville to soak up.
“It’s not good, but hey, we’re blessed. I know y’all here me say blessed a lot, but we are,” said Stratton.