Cullman County Water Department rates going up 7%

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Left to right are Commissioner Kerry Watson, Chairman Jeff Clemons and Commissioner Garry Marchman at Thursday night’s Cullman County Commission meeting. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman County Water Department customers will see a 7% increase in water rates starting with the next billing cycle. The increase was recommended by St. John & Associates due to an increase in rates from the City of Cullman Utilities Board, according to the Cullman County Commission, which approved the County’s rate increase at its meeting Thursday evening.

The commission approved the rate increase based on a review of the FY2020 rate study conducted by St. John & Associates.

St. John & Associates Engineer David Haynes explained, “Through the review of your revenues, your water purchase and other operating expenses, we have determined that the rate increase from 2020 for FY2021 was 6.5%. We’ve determined that needs to go up to 7%. That is a slight increase from the study from last year; however, it should be noted, and this is through conversations with the utilities board as far as their projections for rates moving forward from FY2021 through FY2024- through that four-year period they are anticipating a deduction in increase projections. Over the next four fiscal years, you are looking at a 19% deduction in our projections for what the County’s rates will be.”

Haynes also recommended that the commission approve the engineer’s annual review of water rates for all customers, saying, “There is continuing litigation ongoing with the utilities board and some unforeseen projections or some items included in these projections that have been made.”

Commissioner Garry Marchman said, “We have to increase (our rates) because the City of Cullman has increased their rates and we have to buy it from them. We can’t buy from anybody else.”

In 2010, the commission, under former Chairman James Graves, signed a contract with the City of Cullman to purchase water exclusively through the City. The contract with the City of Cullman, according to Marchman, “is for 50 years with a renewal for 49 years- so 99 years.”

Clearly frustrated, Marchman added, “We own property with the right to pump, a permit to pump, on the Tennessee River. We can’t use that water because we are having to buy water here. People cuss us about the rates going up when we can’t control that. We have to taper our rates so that we aren’t operating at a deficit. It’s a public service; we don’t operate for profit.”

Chairman Jeff Clemons added, “Every time they go up, we have to go up. The County can’t lose money either. We are identifying some of these problems and trying to go back and look at some of this. We need to make sure the citizens understand, we don’t want the rates going up all of a sudden 10% like it did a few years ago. That affects the farmers in a big way. We need to let them know it’s coming in advance.”

In other business, the Commission approved the following items:

  • Ratified abatement for $284,860 for AGCOR Steel presented by Cullman County Economic Development. The $2 million project is expected to bring in $106,144 for the schools and about 30 jobs averaging $20 per hour.
  • Resolution 2021-08: Amended Resolution 2013-01 from $5,000 to $10,000 that any single purchase, lease or contract for service (excluding road materials and services that are bid and within budget) must be approved in a commission meeting prior to a purchase order being issued regardless if such purchase, lease or contract was budgeted, and any monetary donations to outside agencies that were not budgeted for or exceed the budget, must be approved in a commission meeting prior to funds being issued.
  • Resolution 2021-09 Authorized Clemons to sign the CDBG Grant for Cares Act Funding.
  • Authorized Clemons to appoint Ken Brown to the Veterans Memorial Park Advisory Board.
  • Authorized Commissioner Kerry Watson to appoint Clarence Benefield to the Veterans Memorial Park Advisory Board.
  • Authorized Marchman to appoint Wiley Kitchens to the Veterans Memorial Park Advisory Board.
  • Authorized Clemons to appoint Lane Lowery to the Airport Board for a four-year term to expire January 2025.
  • Authorized Clemons to appoint Champ Crocker to the Industrial Development Board Authority for a six-year term to expire 1/19/2027
  • Authorized Watson to reappoint Dr. James Thomas to the Industrial Development Board Authority for a six-year term expiring 1/19/2027
  • Authorized Marchman to reappoint Jerry Wootten to the Industrial Development Board Authority for a six-year term to expire 1/19/2027
  • Authorized Clemons to sign a one-year scheduled service agreement with Trane in the amount of $21,492 for the Cullman County Detention Center
  • Authorized Clemons to sign a contract with Loomis Bros. Circus to perform at the Ag Center Feb. 5-7, 2021
  • Approved extension of employee vacation time to June 4, 2021
  • Approved the surplus of a non-operational 1986 Ford 6610 tractor
  • Approved the County Rebuild Alabama Annual Report (CRAAR) as required by the Rebuild Alabama Act.
  • Approval of Catastrophic Inmate Medical Insurance Company through Hunt Insurance Group LLC- premium of $61,110
  • Approved the value of land to be exchanged for the land where the trade tower water tower currently sits. Swapping 1 acre for 1 acre, each valued at approximately $12,000
  • Amended Section IX-1(a) of the Cullman County Subdivision Regulations to make provisions for an equivalent surety
  • Bid #1334- Reject all bids (adjusted specifications for new bid on motor graders)
  • Bid #1336- Awarded bid for lease of heavy duty motor graders to Warrior Tractor
  • Bid #1337- Awarded bid for the re-roofing project for the Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center to Willoughby Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc. for $267,570

 

The next commission meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 at 6 p.m. in the commission meeting room on the first floor of the Cullman County Courthouse.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com