Rate Increase Could Be On Tap For Dandridge Water Customers

Town of Dandridge elected officials are considering a recommendation from Town and Water Department Administration to increase both water and sewer costs for residential, commercial and industrial customers inside and outside the city limits of Dandridge. The recommendation to increase water 10% and sewer 15% for all Dandridge Water customers came during the work session of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen earlier this week. According to information provided by Dandridge Water Superintendent Mike Norton, the average residential water customer uses around 4,000 gallons of water and sewer per billing cycle. Currently,while Dandridge water rates are higher than those of Jefferson City, White Pine, Newport and Morristown for residential water use inside the city limits, the rate structure is significantly higher for those customers outside the city limits for the majority of the comparable departments. Shady Grove offers a level rate for all customers but it is common to see a significant rate difference depending on location and commercial or industrial uses.

Currently, the rate for in city residents is $16.11 per first 2,000 gallons of water and $2.99 for additional 1,000 above minimum. For those that are outside the city limits,the current rate is $24.11 per first 2,000 gallon and $5.87 per additional 1,000 gallon. Commercial inside the city is currently $20.96 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3.73 for additional 1000 gallons. Commercial outside the city limits jumps to $31.71 for first 2,000 gallons and $7.32 per additional 1,000 gallons. Those customers that are located in Swannsylvania currently have a base rate of $33.01 per 2,000 gallons and $5.08 per additional 1,000.

Town Administrator Peagler presented the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with a proposal for increase that would answer concerns of auditors that the Dandridge Water Department fund has not been generating sufficient profit over the past several years. According to Peagler, auditors would like to see a profit margin in the neighborhood of $250,000 to $300,000. Though the recent past shows profit margins closer to the $50,000 mark, mandates only demand that the fund shows a profit without denoting the amount of profit necessary. To date, the Dandridge Water Department has met that mandate and has shown an annual profit. Should the Department fail to show any profit for two consecutive years, it is possible that the state could step in and set rates for water/sewer services. Peagler said that this year will be closer than she or Superintendent Norton are comfortable with, as the profit margin has dwindled significantly.

Alderman Depew addressed what he termed as “ the elephant in the room”, raising the issue of discolored water that has plagued the Dandridge Water Department since going online with KUB water last year. Depew said that, while he understands the need for additional revenue, the timing is poor for a rate hike. He noted that he is still receiving weekly calls from residents that are concerned about the quality of the water because of its orange color. “It is hard to ask customers to pay more for orange water. I know that the water has been tested and it is fine but people are still concerned.”

Alderman Nelson noted the recent work that has been done replacing pipes and the cost that will be ongoing in dealing with the water issue saying “ They need the money to continue to fix the issues with an outdated system.” Mayor Gantte added that some customers are seeing relief and many like the quality of the water since the change. He also commended the Dandridge Water Department on their professionalism in dealing with customer concerns. Depew agreed that the Dandridge Water Department and Superintendent Norton in particular have been addressing customer’s questions and trying to mitigate the problem. However, he added that he “can’t be on board with charging an increase in water rates until the discoloration is under control but I could support an increase in sewer which would add some profit margin.”

The issue of a rate hike will be addressed at the next voting meeting of the Dandridge Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which will take place Tuesday, September 12th at the Public Works Building.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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