Flaggs has plan to phase in water rate increase

Published 6:50 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. expects to bring the proposed increased water and sewer rates to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for a vote June 1.

Flaggs announced the date while discussing the proposed rate increase Wednesday with the Vicksburg Lions Club.

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“You can’t build a city without infrastructure,” Flaggs said, adding he didn’t want to raise the utility rates, “but it was necessary; they were recommended by a committee to be able to afford what the service provides and to build for the future.”

The rates were recommended by a 10-member committee appointed by Flaggs to examine the city’s water and sewer rate structure, and were presented to the public during a meeting April 24.

At the close of the April public meeting, Flaggs said the rates were negotiable. Wednesday, he said he was releasing a revised water and sewer structure rate where the increase is phased in over a two-year period.

“That’s the deal, because I listened (to residents) and it makes sense,” he said.

Under the new rate structure, the minimum rate a customer would pay is set on a sliding scale based on the size of the water meter and water use.

The least a residential customer will pay under the new schedule is $10.06 for the first 2,000 gallons, an increase of $1.31 more than the $8.75 minimum rate users have paid since the rates were raised in 2015. Commercial and industrial users would pay a minimum of $41.18 for the first 4,000 gallons used, a $5.37 increase from the present rate of $35.81.

The minimum residential sewer rate was increased by $3.20, from $12.90 to $16.10 for the first 2,000 gallons, and from $3.96 to $4.96 per 1,000 gallons for the second 2,000 gallons — a $1 increase.

Those rates remain the same under the new plan, but are split in half with the first half taking effect Oct. 1, and the second becoming effective Oct. 1, 2019.

“Utilities are a part of government,” Flaggs said. The utility rates, he said, “Are a fee for service.

“We’ve got to have it (the increase),” Flaggs said. “The (water treatment) plant is old. We just approved $2 million for upgrades.”

Flaggs on April 2 announced the city would be raising the water and sewer rates after receiving a report on utility rates from the 10-member committee appointed to review the city’s rate structure.

The report was based on a rate study performed by Jackson engineers Allen & Hoshall, which was hired by the board to evaluate the city’s water and sewer rate structure.

Besides the increased use, the city is also faced with meeting the terms of a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency and paying for upgrades to the electrical system at the city’s water treatment plant on Haining Road. The board must also come up with about $2 million in matching funds for the auxiliary waterline project, which is funded in part by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grant.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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