The vote ratified the decision of the Board of Lights and Water, the city’s utility. The BLW opted to raise water rates unanimously at its meeting Monday with little discussion but tabled a decision on raising electric rates.
It’s a matter of passing on rising costs from the city’s wholesaler, the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, and some council members say they don’t have a choice.
The authority’s board, which includes political players like Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, Mayor Steve Tumlin and Councilman Grif Chalfant, voted in September to raise its costs by 4 percent or 60 cents per gallon.
BLW general manager Bob Lewis said the city-owned utility has about 35,000 residential water customers. The average customer uses 4,000 gallons of water per month.
The rate hike will increase the average user’s monthly bill from $27.66 to $28.06, Lewis said.
Councilman Anthony Coleman was the lone vote against raising water rates. Coleman says there are too many seniors in his district who live on a fixed income for him to justify raising their monthly utility bills.
“While it may not seem like a lot of money to those who can afford it, it is to those who live on a fixed income,” Coleman said.
But there’s nowhere else for the money to come from, said Councilman Philip Goldstein.
“On the water rate issue, we don’t have much of a choice,” Goldstein said.
That’s different from the ongoing discussion regarding power rates. Board members are trying to find a place in the utility’s budget to absorb part of a proposed power rate increase, which could be between $5.21 and $7.11 on an average bill.
Water is different, though, because the utility only purchases the water its customers uses, said Alice Summerour, a BLW board member who attended Wednesday’s meeting.
“It’s just truly a pass-through cost from our supplier,” Summerour said.
Electricity is purchased ahead of time from suppliers but all of it may not be used.
Water is a “such a different animal” than power, said Tumlin, who chairs the BLW board.
Councilman Johnny Sinclair, the council’s representative on the BLW, echoed the mayor’s statements.
“There’s no other place for it to come from,” Sinclair said, jokingly adding rising wholesale rates have to be passed along unless a council member wins the lottery and subsidizes residents’ water bills.