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December 31, 2012

Water, sewer and sanitation rate hike takes effect Jan. 1

CULLMAN — Sewer, water and sanitation rates for Cullman residents are set to increase at the start of 2013. City officials announced the rate hikes with a first reading earlier this month and made the final approval earlier this week. The increased rates go into effect across the board Jan. 1.

Officials say the changes are necessary to cover rising expenses.

Minimum sewer rates for the first 3,000 gallons will increase from $32.25 to $33.50 under the new pricing system. The cost of every 1,000 gallons after the initial 3,000 will rise from $10.30 to $10.75. The change represents a 3.87 percent increase from the previous year. The minimum sewer rate has increased by more than $9 the past five years, up from $24.37 in 2009.

Sanitation fees for city residents and business owners will also be going up slightly on Jan. 1, a move officials say was predicated by a rate increase at the local landfill. The residential rate will increase from $15 to $16; commercial rates will increase from $34 to $36; and yard container fees will also see an up-tick depending on volume. In this case, the fee hike was made so the sanitation department would break even in 2013.

The retail water rate inside the city is set to increase from $22.90 for the first 3,000 gallons to $24.25. The cost of every 1,000 gallons after that will increase from $5.35 to $5.75. The increase represents a 5.89 percent increase year-to-date for a minimum water bill. The rate has climbed more than $6 in the past five years, up from $17.31 in 2009.

Officials cite increased operating expenses, debt service and capital purchases for the change. Over the past two years, the city utilities board has undertaken a massive $68 million secondary water source project to build a dam and create a reservoir in the Duck River watershed, which accounts for a portion of the debt service. Officials say the cost of water has also risen due to more advanced treatment techniques and equipment upgrades, which were needed to meet higher federal water quality standards.

Though rates have steadily increased the past several years, officials have said they do not anticipate any drastic price hikes in the future.

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