After being warned for a year, county residents will see their water bills go up effective Jan. 1.
DeKalb County’s water and sewer rates will increase by 11 percent to help finance more than $1 billion dollars in improvements to the county’s water and sewer system. The rate will also increase in 2013 and 2014 by 11 percent, according to a plan adopted by the Board of Commissioners in December 2010.
The increases mean customers with county water and sewer services currently using 6,000 gallons per month would see their rates increase from $59.52 in 2010 to $94.41 in 2014.
“This gives us the necessary revenue to support the long-term payment of the bonds,” said Joe Basista, director of the county’s watershed management department.
In December, the Board of Commissioners approved a $381 million water and sewer bond. With an interest rate of 4.46 percent, the loans will cost taxpayers $766 million over the 30 year loan period. The county plans to secure a $390 million bond in 2012 as part of several anticipated bonds during the watershed improvement process.
Of the $1.345 billion in capital improvement projects, approximately $1 billion will be funded by the bonds and the rest will be financed by the watershed department’s cash reserves, Basista said.
In 2012, the county will begin approximately $400 million of capital improvement projects. Of that amount, approximately $250 million will go to rebuild, upgrade and expand the Snapfinger Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“This is simply the biggest project we will do in the capital improvement plan,” Basista said.
Bid requests for the first phase of the Snapfinger project, which will entail clearing and grading the site where the new structure will be built, will go out in January. The actual construction phase is expected to be bid out in the second or third quarter of 2012.
Approximately $150 million will be used for the design and construction of 20-25 other projects.
“We will see actual construction in 2012,” Basista said. “You won’t see massive construction in 2012, but we will be at a pretty good pace.”
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis has touted the capital improvement plan, which he says will create approximately 4,000 jobs, as the county’s stimulus plan.
“This is the heart of our economic development program,” Basista said.
The county’s water and sewer system, which serves more than 730,000 people and 20,000 businesses, has about 5,200 miles of water and sewer lines, one treatment facility for drinking water and two for waste water.
The system is plagued with pipe breaks and sewer spills. As of Dec. 20, there have been 187 county sewer spills, many caused by grease blockages in pipes.
According to county officials, approximately $20 million-$30 million will be allocated to address requirements of a proposed consent decree in which the county would agree to pay a $453,000 penalty from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for excessive sewage spills. The county also agreed to implement a $600,000 stream cleanup project, focusing on debris removal from parts of the South River, South Fork Peachtree Creek and Snapfinger Creek.
Basista said the watershed department has already begun addressing some of the issues that brought about the proposed consent decree. The county is in the process of physically surveying the entire sewer system, with 70 percent of the mapping already complete. Workers are also in the process of building a computerized hydrological model of the system.
Some limited system rehabilitation and closed-circuit monitoring is also under way, Basista said.