CONYERS -- Rockdale Water Resources is set to embark on a campaign to educate customers on the need for a rate increase.
RWR, in coordination with the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority, is planning to take its case for a rate increase to the people in the form of educational presentations and materials.
RWR officials met with the Rockdale County Water and Sewerage Authority Dec. 20 where they went over plans to launch a campaign that is intended to illustrate the need for more revenue order to keep the water system operating efficiently and meet future demands.
RWR Director Dwight Wicks said that the community outreach will include three components -- public presentations to community groups, a mail out to water customers, and "infomercials" that will air on Channel 23.
The Authority members present at the meeting -- Chairman Elaine Nash, Chip Hatcher, William Murraine, David Shipp and Darrell Thomas -- discussed the need for public education and to illustrate how the rate increase will fit into an overall water system master plan.
Nash said Wicks' master plan, which she described as "an excellent plan," addresses major challenges and projects that will need to be initiated. The Authority's role, she said, is to "make sure there is adequate funding for RWR to do the job they need to do to keep the utility in good operating condition. And that means looking ahead."
A recent study by Raftelis Financial Consultants Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., showed that RWR will need to increase water and sewer rates in order to keep up with operating costs and maintain the system.
The water and sewer rate study, which was begun in 2011, showed that RWR's current rates will not generate enough revenue in 2013 to reinvest in the system to maintain current service levels, avoid depleting reserves, and meet 2014 debt service requirements. In addition, the current rate structure does not encourage water conservation, and sewer rate increases are needed to make the sewer system more self-sufficient.
Under the study recommendations, an average residential water customer using 6,000 gallons per month would see a rate increase of 5.8 percent in 2013, or $1.95 on a $33.65 bill. An average monthly sewer charge would increase 9.5 percent, from $39.23 per month to $42.95.
Wicks said one of the major reasons community education is needed is that RWR has had "a very limited number of rate increases for water and sewer ... public perception is that you have operated for a number of years without one, why do you need one now?"
Wicks said that the system must plan for future capital expenditures that will be needed to address sediment issues in the reservoir, maintain pump stations, and replace three small package plants as required by the state Environmental Protection Division.
"We've been nursing them along, trying to extend the life of them, but they are going to have to be replaced," he said.
Maintaining the system is the best way to avoid being fined and placed under EPD consent orders, which can be very costly, said Wicks.
"It's going to cost you one way or the other," he said.