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City to review water, sewer and gas fees

Published 12:45 am Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Jackson engineering firm has been hired to do a survey of Vicksburg’s water, sewer and gas rates to the determine if the city is getting the revenue it should be receiving from its utilities.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 3-0 to hire Allen & Hoshall of Jackson to review the city’s utility rate structure. The company currently has a contract with the city to help it comply with a U.S. Department of Environmental Quality consent decree involving problems with the city’s sewer system.

Allen & Hoshall representative Jimmy Nelson said the study will “and try and determine if the (utility) rates are viable and fair, and if the city is actually breaking even on what they assess people in the rate structure as far as utilities. Once we analyze that, we will come back to the city and report our findings on where you are.”

He said the report would be ready within 60 days.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the city’s tap fees, which a homeowner or business pays the city to connect a service line to the city system, have remained the same for a number of years.

“I understand there hasn’t been a change in 25 years,” he said. “So what we’re tying to do is come in line and making certain we’re all about the very best service to our customers, and at the most competitive cost so we won’t be providing free service.”

According to a schedule from the city’s water and gas administration, the city charges $40 plus a 7 percent sales tax to connect a customer in the city or county to a 1 ¼-inch gas line and $100 plus tax for connection to a 2-inch line.

A water tap fee in the city can range from $151.15 plus tax to connect to a 3/4-inch line to $375.38 plus tax to tap into a 2-inch line. County residents on the city water system pay from $302.30 to $750.76 plus tax to tie into a line, depending on the size of the line. The city charges cost plus 15 percent to tap into a line larger than 2-inches. It costs $50 plus tax to tie into city sewer.

“When you look at cities comparable to us in size, we’re way out of line with probably 3 or 4 different areas in what the City of Vicksburg charges in relation to cities comparable to us in tap fees,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said, “We’re probably 15 to 20 percent below what they charge in Hazelhurst or somewhere like that. I want the people to understand that you can’t operate for free. You just can’t do that.”