No opposition to Oxford water, sewer rate hike

town_oxford_greenBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – The only resident who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday on Oxford’s proposed water and sewer rate hike didn’t protest the hike but was seeking extension of water service to her daughter’s rural home.

Oxford had petitioned the Public Service Commission for a six-percent rate increase for water and sewer customers who live a mile or more outside the city. Rates for Oxford residents and those within a mile of the municipal limits are set, according to state law, by the city’s Board of Aldermen.

Oxford Public Works Director Bart Robinson testified Tuesday before Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley that the increase was necessary “to maintain a healthy cash flow for our system to maintain adequate service at or above current levels and to adequately fund capital improvements.”

According to Robinson, the hike will cost an extra $3 per month to a typical homeowner using 6,000 gallons of water.

The city has had as much as $10 million in its water-and-sewer reserve fund, which it uses to make capital improvements, major repairs and extensions of service to previously unserved areas. Robinson said after several major projects it now stands at around $6 million and will drop further after the city spends some $1.5 million to relocate infrastructure to accommodate the Highway 7 expansion.

“We will be decreasing that fund steadily,” said City Attorney Pope Mallette.

Projections of repairs and capital improvements through 2030 estimate that even with the rate increase the reserve fund will remain between $1.5 million and $3 million for most of the next 16 years.

“Anytime it gets below $2 million, I start getting nervous,” Robinson said.

Robinson noted that his office had received no written or oral objections to the increase.

“Most people want Oxford water and sewer service,” he said.

Proving his point was Mary Johnson, the lone member of the public who asked to speak at the hearing.

“I had the wrong idea of this meeting. I thought it was to get it expanded to places in the county that don’t have water,” she said. “There are people that want the water.”

Presley said he expected a ruling on Oxford’s rate request within two weeks.