Norris water rate hike goes into effect Jan. 1

Water bills will go up about 26-percent

Norris water bills will go up about 26 percent beginning Jan. 1 after the City Council last week unanimously gave final approval to a rate increase proposed earlier by the city’s Water Commission.

The typical residential bill for use of 2,000 gallons or less per month will rise by $5.14 from the current $19.37, to a new total of $24.51 (plus state and local sales taxes), according to the ordinance, which was passed on first reading by the council in November.

That amounts to nearly $62 a year for the typical customer.

For each 1,000 gallons over the 2,000-gallon base minimum, customers will pay an additional $2, bringing the total rate per extra 1,000 gallons to $8.46.

These rates are for customers with a ¾-inch supply line, which is what most homes have, City Manager Scott Hackler said.

Of the Norris water system’s 775 customers, 43 percent pay the base rate, Water Commission officials said.

In other business last week, the council authorized Hackler to file an application with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to take ownership of a strip of “surplus” state property along Andersonville Highway from U.S. 441 (Norris Freeway) to East Norris Road, adjacent to the Covenant Life Church.

TDOT had informed the city that it intended to put the land up for auction, and invited Norris to participate in the auction.

But Hackler said the city could avoid the auction process and take ownership of the property at no cost if the land were to be dedicated to public use, which is what the city intends to do.

“It will become city property for public use, and will be kept as a grassy area,” Hackler said. “We might use some of it as an arboretum or a dog park, but it will always be a public-use area.”

Some representatives of the church had opposed the city buying the land, saying the church wanted to be able to use the property occasionally for church events.

“The church wanted to continue to use it for Easter egg hunts,” Hackler said. “They could still use it for that, and won’t have to spend money to buy the property.”

As for the water-rate increase, during the council’s November meeting, Water Commission Chairman Dean Harshbarger said it was needed to help cover a projected shortfall in the water budget.

“We do our best to keep the rates low,” he told the council members. “But our main objective is to keep the water and sewers flowing. … Even with this rate increase, we’re still lower on our water rates than the Anderson County Water Authority and our neighboring municipalities.”

Mayor Chris Mitchell noted then that the Water Commission had worked through its budget during a series of special workshops to come up with a plan to keep it in the black.

“The work that has gone into this makes me confident in it,” he said of the proposed rate increase.

“That’s why I support it. I’m comfortable with it.”

New budget items the Water Commission approved at a special meeting in November totaled just over $93,000 a year, including $57,000 for a new full-time employee, $12,000 more for part-time worker pay, a $20,000 contingency fund, and $5,000 for training of staff members on handling of dangerous chemicals.

To cover those extra expenditures, the approved rate increase is expected to generate about $97,500 annually.