As foreshadowed at its June 3 meeting, the Slater City Council approved a water rate hike that will go into effect for the Nov. 1 billing cycle.
The rate increase is the first since 1992, according to Assistant City Administrator Gene Griffith, and it is designed to be as gentle as possible on the pocketbooks of the city's water customers.
"It will not affect sewer rates whatsoever," he said. And the timing is intended to let customers get past the peak water usage months of summer before the new rate goes into effect.
The rate hike is necessary to help pay off a lease-purchase agreement for improvements to the city's water plant. The council voted at its first June meeting to approve the agreement and proceed with the project. Griffith said at the time that a rate hike would be required to foot the bill.
Griffith said he started with an engineer's recommendation for the increase, but he thought it was too high.
"I made some adjustments and took the bare minimum," he said.
The new rate structure increases the minium charge -- for the first 1,000 gallons of water -- by 22 cents, from $5.78 to $6. The rate per 1,000 gallons for up to 2,000 gallons per month is the same as the minimum rate.
After that, the rate levels increase by varying amounts.
The average Slater resident, who uses in the neighborhood of 5,000 gallons per month, will see an increase of a little more than a dollar, Griffith said, going from the current cost of $24.73 to $25.85 once the new rate goes into effect.
A customer who uses about 10,000 gallons per month should see an increase in their bill of about $2.22, Griffith said.
The rate for rural customers will go from a minimum for the first 1,000 gallons of $8.69 to $8.91.
The new rate is expected to generate about $27,000 more than the current rate, according to Griffith.
Griffith also gave the council an update on the water plant improvements, noting that the lease-purchase agreement had been completed and some parts ordered. Work replacing a clarifier, one of the key components in purifying city water, is slated to begin Oct. 1.
In other business, during the mayor's report, Stephen Allegri noted the town's Independence Day celebration had been a big success, with quite a few people coming from out of town to visit.
There was a rare moment of tension at the meeting following Allegri's report when Councilman Rex Cantlin reported that he'd gotten several complaints from residents who objected to the debris from fireworks, especially bottlerockets, littering their yards.
He wondered whether the council should take action to prevent the problem in the future.
"People don't like cleaning up after somebody else," he said. "I've got people who want to know what to do about it."
Allegri said he thought the best solution was simply to have the people who shoot fireworks clean up their own messes.
In his report, Allegri also noted that the "city of festivals," as he hopes Slater will be known, will have another event -- an antique tractor pull -- at the airport Aug. 2.
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