PT: local lede
Calhoun City water customers brace for rate increase
By Jane Hill
CALHOUN CITY – As work began this week on a three-phase project to improve and update Calhoun City’s water system, city officials began bracing the public for the rate increase that will follow.
Calhoun City Mayor Tom Cole said the long overdue project will improve water supply, water quality and fire protection in the city.
“This system was put in long, long before I got here, and it needs a lot of work,” Cole said.
Though the exact amount of the increase has not been determined for all customers, Cole said he does not think that residential customers will see more than a $3 a month increase in the basic minimum water rate.
The system serves about 850 customers, including residential, commercial and industrial users. The basic water charge per month for the use of up to 2,500 gallons is $6.50.
Calhoun City has not had a water rate increase since 1986, Cole said.
“I think a decade of no water rate increases is pretty good,” he said. “This increase will not go toward anything but retiring the loan debt.”
Increases for the different levels of usage ranging from 2,500 to more than 10,000 gallons has not yet been calculated, he said.
Cole said the new rates will not go into effect until the projects are complete and the new system is in operation, which should be about 12 months before the first payment on the city’s loan is due. The three-phase project should be complete by year’s end, barring weather delays, Cole said.
The cost of the project is about $1 million and is being paid for though grants and loans from federal and state agencies as well as money the city is contributing.
Gordie Haire, district loan specialist with the Rural Economic and Community Development Agency, formerly the Farmers Home Administration, said the project received a $436,000 grant from his agency and a loan for $448,000.
Calhoun City also received a $134,000 Community Development Block Grant for the project and is putting in $100,000 of its own for the project, Haire said.
Cole said the city’s water system was originally built in 1929 and since then has been updated once in the 1940’s and once in the 1960’s.
None of the previous expansion and update projects planned for the widespread installation of fire hydrants, a problem the city plans to remedy with this project.
“Too many cities install lines that are too small to put hydrants on. Even if you could they would suck the line dry,” Cole said. “A loop of water line around the community is what you need to make a hydrant system work right and that is what we are going to do here.”
The project began this week with the digging of a new water well to the northwest of the city limits.
The second phase will involve the construction of a 500,000 gallon water storage tank and the third phase will involve the installation of new water lines around the city.
Local reaction to word of the eventual rate increase has been fairly mild, Cole said.
“Of course, that could change when people get their first bill under the new system,” he said.