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Nashville OKs sewer rate hike

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By PHILIP SAYBLACK
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 18, 2017

NASHVILLE — Nashville residents will soon see a slight increase in their utility bills.

The Nashville Town Council voted Wednesday to increase local residents’ sewer rates by 4.5 percent. The rate increase, which Town Manager Hank Raper said would only impact the sewer portion of residents’ bills, was discussed after Rocky Mount announced it will soon increase its customers’ sewer rates by 3 percent.

The announcement impacts Nashville residents because Nashville receives its sewer service from Rocky Mount. Raper said the rate increase will go into effect beginning July 1, the start of fiscal year 2017-18.

He said the increase equates to an average annual increase in customers’ bills of $30. Raper stressed while that figure is based on an average $40 per month bill, customers’ bills will vary because “not all of our utility customers are taxpayers.”

While council members agreed the town would have to absorb Rocky Mount’s cost increase, the proposed 3 percent rise was a point of contention. Raper stressed the town’s enterprise fund has been “breaking even” adding it will continue to lose money “if we don’t increase the sewer rate.”

He said even if Rocky Mount stayed flat on its rates, the town would still need to do something to offset the rising costs associated with sewer upkeep, adding the town did not want to have to dig into its general fund to pay those costs.

“The last thing you want to do is use the general fund to pay for water and sewer,” Raper said. “That could spell disaster for any town or city.”

Mayor David Street agreed.

“A town is a business, and a business has to have operating funds to stay in business,” Street said. “If you don’t have money, it’s a sad day. This town offers residents a good quality of life, and to maintain quality of life, it costs money.”

Councilman Charles Taylor suggested a 5 percent increase in the town’s sewer rate, stressing such an increase “would help the town’s enterprise fund quite a bit.” Fellow councilman Larry Taylor disagreed.

“If we go with 5 percent now, we have no clue what Rocky Mount will do next year,” Taylor said. “We already have a new storm water fee. I can justify 3 percent forced on us to my constituents, but can our citizens handle 5 percent?”

After much discussion, council members eventually came to a compromise of a 4.5 percent increase in a 4-1 vote. Councilwoman Louise Hinton was the only council member to vote against the increase. She also voted against a proposed 4 percent increase.

The council also voted to appropriate $603,291.92 from its Enterprise Fund to help pay for its upcoming Stony Creek Sewer outfall construction project after a closed session. Raper said the decision enhanced the importance of the town’s sewer rate increase.

“It makes it that much more critical,” Raper said. “The last thing we want to do is raise rates, but this will save money for customers in the long haul. It is a significant investment that will allow for commercial growth.”

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