GREENVILLE – Greenville residents and business owners expressed concern over the proposed water and sewer rate hike during the regular meeting of Greenville City Council on Tuesday. Gary Evans, water superintendent for the city, shared an alternative proposal that would raise rates by 50 percent each year over the next three years and five percent a year in subsequent years.
Chris Boyd, manager of Boyd Cleaners, said, “We’re getting ready to take a pretty good hit on our water bill.” In addition to the proposed water rate hike, he also cited the proposed sidewalk repair/placement issue that will hit his business. “I can’t take much more of this,” he said. “The laundromat part of my business will be gone if this goes through.” Following Evans’ presentation, Boyd added, “If you’ve got a good fair deal, put it on the ballot.”
Tracy Tryon addressed council and said he thought a plan was put in place for a yearly review and questioned why it hasn’t been reviewed. “This city has approximately half of its population either on fixed income or retirement. A drastic increase in these rates would be a financial burden on these residents.” He suggested changing the quarterly billing cycle to monthly billing. He also addressed the impact on businesses. “Greenville has five facilities that provide retirement, assisted living and nursing care. An increase of water rates will have an effect on the cost toward these residents.” He also pointed to facilities like the hospital and locally owned restaurants that would have to pass the cost onto consumers.
Don Hunt said he rents to a lot of elderly people and is concerned with their welfare if the water/sewer rate increase is adopted. “They are on a very fixed income and I told them their rents would go up with this increase. They’re telling me they can’t afford what they’ve got now. And they can’t.” He said the people he has talked to aren’t going to flush their toilets, wash their cars or do their laundry for a month at a time. Hunt also addressed the sidewalk issue and called on the city to fix the worst ones first and not go zone by zone.
Richard Barton owns property in the city and questioned how the city could replace in sidewalks in part of the city at no cost to the residents and require others to pay. He also addressed discrepancies with the sidewalks in the park. “You would think the city would fix their own sidewalks before they start coming after us to fix ours.”
Following the comments from the public, Mayor Steve Willman addressed the sidewalk issue and said he is working to find ways to curb the cost to residents. He suggested grants could be made to low income residents and using a service to shave down sidewalks where they have been raised could save more than $100,000 for residents.
Willman also allowed Evans to address council with a new proposal to raise water rates by 50 percent each year over the next three year and five percent each year after for the next 40 years. The proposal includes monthly billing and would keep the base units close to the 10 units that is currently in place for the quarter. Residents would have three units minimum per month. With a 5/8-inch meter the bill would be $16.85. Evans pointed out the majority of residents use four units per month, which would make their bill $21.26 a month. Each unit above the minimum is $4.41.
If the increase is enacted this year, the water department would be able to complete the following projects:
North Broadway waterline and lime slaker – 2020
Waterline from plant to town – 2022
Water tower east – 2025
Well line – 2026
Additional treatment – 2029
Waterline from plant to town – north – 2031
Water meters – 2032
Water tower north – 2033
Replace the water plant – 2040
Council President John Burkett cautioned that city council has not yet made a determination on water and sewer rates. “I can assure you this council will not do something quickly or try to ram it through so people won’t have an opportunity to comment. That is not the way this council operates. I know you’re opposed to it. We have reservations about it. This council has taken a lot of things under consideration. I don’t think they are going to do a knee-jerk reaction. The best we can, we do our due diligence.”
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