Norris Council to get request for 25-percent raise in water rates

Water rates in Norris will increase 25-percent starting Jan. 1 if the City Council approves an ordinance that the city’s Water Commission wants enacted.

The Water Commission voted unanimously in a special session Monday to have City Manager Scott Hackler draft an ordinance for the rate increase for the City Council to consider at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Hackler said the Water Commission will consider approving the draft ordinance during a special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 12) in time for the City Council to deal with it on the following Friday.

The council would have to approve the ordinance then on first reading, schedule a public hearing, then bring the ordinance up for second and final reading at the next regular council meeting on Monday, Dec. 9.

The basic (minimum) water rate for the first 2,000 gallons for a residential customer with a 3/4-inch water line would then jump to $24.21 (plus 9.75 percent state sales tax) as of Jan. 1, up from the current $19.37. Forty-three percent of the Norris water customers pay this minimum bill amount.

For each 1,000 gallons over the minimum, a water customer would pay an additional $8.46, up from $6.46.

Those figures are for water only; customers also pay sewer and trash pickup service fees on top of the water portion of their bills from the Norris Water Commission. City residents do not have to pay for sewer service if they are in an area not served by a sewer line.

With the rate increase, the Water Commission expects to collect an additional $97,500 annually, which would be used to cover a deficit of at least $93,000 a year that the commission would face by adding some agreed-upon new expenses to its budget.

Those include $20,000 for a contingency fund, $57,000 for the salary and benefits for an additional full-time staff member, $11,000 for additional part-time salaries, and $5,000 for chemical-hazards training and protections for water plant staff.

“I don’t know that there’s anything we can cut to keep the rate increase down,” commission Chairman Dean Harshbarger told fellow members Monday. “I hate to raise rates, but the numbers show we need to raise the rates to keep going.” The City Council’s regular November meeting was moved from Monday, Nov. 11, because of the Veterans Day holiday, and will be held at 5:30 p.m. on the following Friday.

During the October City Council meeting, Hackler showed council members a chart outlining the Water Commission’s needs for the additional revenue. The proposed additional expenditures were determined during a workshop the Water Commission held to deal with financial issues.

Norris has 775 water customers, and City Recorder Janet Parks said the additional revenue would be needed to keep the Water Commission from having a budget deficit.