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Water woes stir rate hike
Revenue dries up as residents conserve
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Forsyth County News
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The public hearing on Forsyth County's proposed water and sewer hike is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the county administration building in downtown Cumming.

A combination of factors has forced Forsyth County to consider raising costs for its water customers, a decision that could come after a public hearing Thursday night.

If rates are not increased, said Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas, the county water and sewer department could face a $5 million operating loss.

Thomas said rate hikes are necessary because of a drop in revenues "due to several factors, including the ongoing drought, the outdoor water restrictions that remain in effect and the slowdown in development."

The idea does not sit well with some residents.

"We've been cutting back on how much water we use at the house," Larry Cochran said. "After all that trouble we've gone through being conservative with water ... that doesn't seem fair."

Water rates for Cochran and other county residents could rise from $12 for the first 3,000 gallons to $12 for the first 1,000 gallons.

Customers using from 1,001 to 2,000 gallons monthly would pay an additional $3.40 and those using 2,001 to 3,000 gallons monthly would pay $6.80 more.

The same tiered rates would remain in place for every additional 1,000 gallons of water.

Senior citizen water base rates would change from $9 for the first 3,000 gallons to $9 for the first 1,000 gallons. Seniors would have the rate increases per every 1,000 gallons as all other customers.

Residents who use sewer as opposed to septic could see even additional fee increases. The new residential sewer base rate would be $10 for residential and $20 for commercial use.

Resident Carl Myers doesn't use the county sewer system, but sees the potential increase in both water and sewer rates as necessary.

"If that's what they've got to do, that's what they've got to do," Myers said.

Rate increases would be considered on a part-time basis, while the county awaits the results of a rate study, Thomas said. The rate study could be finished near the middle of 2009.

According to county figures, water sales were down 32 percent from January through October 2008. Overall operating revenues were down about 31 percent.

The city of Cumming raised its water and sewer rates Jan. 1. Bills for city customers went up about $5 per month for the average household, according to Cumming Utilities Director Jon Heard.