Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners Asked During Budget Hearings To Approve Water And Sewer Rate Increases

Actual Decreases For Some

Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie is asking for a 1.0 percent increase in the base water rate and a 1.5 percent increase for those who use just slightly more water per month.

Those who are heavier users actually will see a reduction in water rates, if the Board of Commissioners accepts Haynie’s recommendations.

The base sewer rate would drop, under Haynie’s plan, but rates for those producing higher and more usual sewer flow would increase significantly.

The proposed increases for fiscal year 2017-2018 follow 0 percent increases in both water and sewer rates for the current fiscal year compared with a year earlier.

Haynie told the Board of Commissioners in a budget hearing before last (Tuesday) night’s regularly scheduled Commission meeting that he expects to be asking for rate increases in each of the next three years roughly comparable to what he is asking for this year.

Rescheduled Hearings

The Board of Commissioners held budget hearings last night for the Utility Department and for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Both departments had been scheduled to make their budget pitches to the Commission on April 19, but the hearings for these two departments were delayed so they could have more time with the commissioners.

Haynie presented a $9.6 million budget, up from a $9.1 million budget in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Parks and Recreation Department Head John Gentry presented a $3.4 million budget request, up from $2.7 million in the current fiscal year.

Gentry presented a fee schedule that included a $5 increase in youth sports programs.

Gentry said the Parks and Recreation Department is generating 40.4 percent of its operating budget from fees and other revenue generated by the department. That compares with a national average for parks and recreation departments of 29 percent, he said.

Water Rates

The base monthly charge for residential water customers is $19.79, and that will increase to $19.99 under the rate proposed by Haynie. The rate of increase is 1.0 percent.

For that base amount, a customer gets the first 1,000 gallons per month of water.

If the customer uses 1,000 gallons or less, the rate actually is discounted to $16.70 under the current rate and will be discounted to $16.90 under the proposed rate. The discount is to reward customers on a very limited income who use the minimal amount of water.

A customer who uses 2,000 gallons per month of water will pay $25.17 under the proposed plan, up from 24.79 at present. That’s an increase of 1.5 percent.

That $25.17 fee consists of $19.99 for the first 1,000 gallons and $5.18 for the second 1,000.

A customer who uses 6,000 gallons per month will pay $45.89 under the proposed rate plan, down from $46.79 at present. That’s a drop of 1.9 percent.

Sewer Rates

The base rate for up to 1,000 gallons per month of residential sewage service proposed by Haynie is $18.74, down from $22.62 at present. That’s a drop of 17.2 percent.

A customer who uses 2,000 in residential sewer under Haynie’s proposal will pay $24.04 next year, compared with $22.62 at present. That is a 6.3 percent increase.

Commercial customers have a different rate structure than residential users both for water and sewer services.

The county has roughly 9,400 water customers, Haynie said in a presentation in October of last year, and roughly 2,100 sewer customers.

At the hearing last night, Haynie said water customers are subsidizing sewer customers in the county, though his goal is to try to minimize that subsidy.

BOC Meeting

At the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners that followed the budget hearings, the Commission agreed to a $820,000 change order for construction of the McNutt Creek sewer line. The change is to accommodate a tunnel under SR Loop 10.

Commissioners also agreed to purchase a used transport van being offered to the county by Lord and Stephens Funeral Home at a cost of $5,000. The van is assessed at $11,000, but the funeral home agreed to make a $6,000 charitable contribution to make up the difference.

Lord and Stephens has told the county it will no longer provide transport services previously used by the Coroner, and the vehicle purchased from Lord and Stephens will be assigned to the Coroner.

The Commissioners also approved a $125,000 expenditure as part of the county’s farmland protection program. The money will go toward purchase of a conservation easement on the farm of B. J. B. Rollins, 2220 Salem Road, in the south of the county.

The county also gave approval to a new Door-to-Door Solicitation Ordinance and a revision of the county’s Alcohol Ordinance lowering the age of license holders and servers. Both items were put on the consent agenda for final action at the meeting on May 2.

Video

The video of the budget hearings is below.

The discussion of the Utility Department budget makes up the first 52 minutes of the video and is followed by discussion of the Parks and Recreation Department Budget.

OCO: BOC Budget 4 25 17 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

The video from the Board of Commissioners regularly scheduled meeting is below.

Russ Page, a long-time advocate of farmland preservation, spoke during the citizen comment section of the meeting, asking the commissioners to remember that every time land in the county is paved over it removes that land from its potential use for food production.

Page’s comments begin at 1 minute into the video.

OCO: BOC 4 25 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Oconee County Commission To Hold Budget Hearings For Two Departments Prior To Its Regularly Scheduled Meeting

Rescheduled Hearings

Oconee County commissioners tomorrow (Tuesday) night will discuss budget requests from two key departments, Parks and Recreation and Utility, in hearings rescheduled from last week.

The Board of Commissioners has set aside two hours before the regular Board meeting for the two departments, which have more interaction with citizens than many of the others in the county.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Oconee County Puts Two Projects On Three-Year Hold Because Of Issue With Ground Clearance Permits

Timbering At Issue

Oconee County has informed developers of two projects, both of which have been before the county’s Development Review Committee in recent weeks, that their projects are on hold because they cleared trees from the sites without getting clearing and grubbing permits.

A representative of one of those projects--the expansion of Briarwood Baptist Church on Hog Mountain Road--was before the DRC on Friday and was told that even though the DRC approved the Preliminary Site Plan the county would not issue any permits for work to go forward.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Oconee County Says It Cannot Provide Sewer Capacity To Auto Dealership Being Built On SR 316

12-18 Month Delay

Oconee County told Mercedes-Benz of Athens Friday that the county will not be able to provide sewer service for the planned new auto dealership on SR 316 at Virgil Langford Road for another 12 to 18 months.

The announcement coincided with the release of a memorandum stating that those requesting Letters of Availability of sewer service be advised of limited capacity in parts of the county’s service area and the complete lack of availability in others, including where the Mercedes-Benz facility is planned.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Georgia Department Of Transportation Releases Maps Of U.S. 441 Widening In Oconee County

Show Bishop Roundabouts

The Georgia Department of Transportation today (Tuesday) released electronic versions of the five maps it unveiled March 28 at a meeting of the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee on the widening of U.S. 441 from Watkinsville to the Apalachee River.

Included were maps showing two alternate designs for the roadway through Bishop as well as three maps of the sections of roadway through Oconee County

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alexion Decides Not To Expand Oconee County Plant And Cancels Land Purchase At Gateway Business Park

90 Day Deadline

Alexion Pharma of New Haven, Conn., has decided not to expand its operation at the Gateway Technology Business Park on the edge of Bogart, dealing a setback to efforts of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority to develop the business park.

Rick Waller, chair of the IDA, announced the decision of Alexion as an afterthought following his Chair Report to the IDA last week.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sewer Issues At Top Of County Concerns, Citizens Told At Oconee County Town Hall Meeting

Closing Question

James Gaither, 1040 Cumberland Road, north of Watkinsville, asked the final question at the Town Hall Meeting held by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Thursday night.

“If you guys could have one thing off your plate right now, or tomorrow morning, what would you choose--to be done with it, don’t have to worry about it for another 10 years?” Gaither asked.