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Aiken City Council pumps brakes on proposed water, sewer rate increases

April 24, 2018

On the eve of potential water and sewer rate hikes for City of Aiken residents, City Council hit pause, citing new information relayed by Aiken County officials.

Interim City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh announced the County had contacted the City early Monday morning with some new math: The City owes approximately $760,000 a year for a regional wastewater treatment plant renovation instead of a previously calculated $1.02 million.

“The good news is it’s less than the $1.02 million,” Bedenbaugh said, “a fair amount less.”

The City is one of several other contributors, North Augusta included, paying off the $50 million plant upgrade.

The City was first notified of the upgrade-related payments in August 2016. Water and sewer rate increases have been discussed “several times” over the past two years, City Council documents state.

The City’s water and sewer services are financed via an enterprise fund, an account that is devoted to a specific use, which is bankrolled with associated revenues.

The proposed increases, a 2-percent bump for water and an 11-percent bump for sewer, will now be addressed mid-May, Bedenbaugh said. The new, cheaper debt service figure will most likely reduce the rate increases, he added.

The raises would have gone into effect May 1 had they been approved Monday night.

The 2-percent water hike equates to a monthly 24-cent increase for the average residential customer. The 11-percent sewer hike equates to a monthly $3.13 increase for that same customer.

“Running it as an enterprise fund, we want to capture all costs,” Bedenbaugh has said.

City Council approved, by a 5-2 vote, the first reading of an ordinance to increase the rates earlier this month.

City Council members Ed Woltz and Lessie Price voted against the ordinance at the time.

Woltz said he had too many unanswered questions – “I don’t think we have enough information to move this forward” – to vote favorably.

A list of recent City water and sewer efficiencies and upgrades, most likely in response to Woltz, was included in City Council’s Monday meeting packet.

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