River Falls residents face 3 hikes in water rates

Published 1:34 am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Residents in River Falls will likely see an increase in water rates, this year, and over the next three years, but council members say the hike is necessary in order to continue operations.

The council on Tuesday unanimously approved a motion to follow the recommendation of the Alabama Rural Water Association and raise the rates. The approval calls for water rates to increase from $12 to $16 this year; from $16 to $18 next year; and from $18 to $20 in 2016. The flat rates are for the first 2,000 gallons of water used at a residence, with a charge of $3.50 per 1,000 gallons to follow. The council also approved dropping commercial water rates from a flat rate of $50 per month to $25. The flat rate will cover businesses for up to 20,000 gallons of water with a $3.50 charge per 1,000 gallons following.

Council member Gary Wages said the hikes for residents were necessary, while the drop for businesses just made good sense.

“I think everyone knew we were going to have to raise the water rates,” Wages said. “For businesses, there’s just not a lot of businesses that use 20,000 gallons a month and they’re paying the same amount as businesses that do. Flat rates are there to encourage businesses to come in, but here, businesses are being penalized so others don’t get charged for what they use. Everyone should just pay for what they use.”

Mayor Patricia Gunter also said the water rate hike is necessary for River Falls in order to build up funds to maintain the system, adding the prices are still much cheaper than those in neighboring communities.

“We know (the rates) have to increase,” she said. “If everything stays the way it is, we’re just breaking even.”

Gunter said the new water rates must be approved by the Alabama Rural Development office before being implemented, adding the next rate jump would come one year from that date. The rate approval will mark the first rise in water rates in River Falls since 2004.

In other business, the council:

• approved the recommendation of the planning and zoning committee to rezone a 6.6-acre piece of land from residential to commercial status in hopes of attracting more business to the area. The two adjoining lots are located at the intersection of Styles Avenue and Hwy 55, and are listed for sale through Realtor Elane Jennings;