ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany leaders are considering a new budget that includes an Albany Utilities rate hike that when added up will bring in $2.6 million annually to the utility.
Divided out, it will mean a maximum of $7.68 for a customer that has all five services, less money for customers that use less services.
It's money city employees insist is necessary to bring the aging utility up to speed.
We met with the director of operations to learn more about how your extra money will be used.
Jimmy Norman said, "Over the past several years we have cut and cut and cut."
Those cuts include manpower and expenses.
Norman, a long-time lineman who is now the Director of Operations at Albany Utilities, said the 105-year-old operation has to play catch-up.
"The life expectancy of an underground cable, a primary cable, is 20 years. We have some that are 30 and 40 years old and it is starting to fail at a higher rate."
Besides replacing old underground cable, Norman said "We have a lot of places in town that need to be converted from overhead to underground, we have complications from vegetation and trees and things like that. Of course, putting it underground is very expensive."
But, the lack of manpower and the aging infrastructure and exposed wires was a problem that became very apparent following the January storms and outages.
"We were at some of our lower manpower than we have been in quite some time," said Norman.
He hopes to hire 10 linemen in the new fiscal year budget under consideration and boost technology that will help get the power on faster during an outage.
Norman said the technology is "available now, but it comes at a price."
"I mean we have cut the fat, all the way around, however we could," said Monique Broughton Knight, the city's public information officer, when asked if other areas can be trimmed down before a rate increase.
Since the Utility merged with the City, Broughton Knight shared information that ten executive level positions were cut, amounting to about 25%of the executive workforce.
There was a consolidation of services in areas like human resources, finance, IT, and the City Attorney's office and there has been an ongoing effort to do "more with less".
Norman said with new customers coming on board, and more on the horizon, in order to keep up with growth, these improvements must happen now.
'We have a lot of economic development prospects looking at us, and that is one thing they look at, your infrastructure. If your infrastructure is not strong and you don't have a good track record, they will look elsewhere."
The increases, if approved in the city's budget, will take effect July 1st.
We were surprised to find out significant portions of your utility bill pays for services other than utilities.
Albany Utilities funds 27% of general government operations, including police, fire and recreation and park services.
That is because property and sales taxes alone are not enough to cover operations.
According to the city, even with the proposed increases, the electric rates will remain lower than Ga Power & Mitchell EMC.
Here is some data provided by the city:
Sewer rates are the second lowest among comparable cities, and gas rates are below the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia Average.
Water rates are the lowest among comparable cities.
Solid Waste rates are competitive based on level of service provided.
While there is no rate increase for storm water, the monthly cost to the average customer who has all services is $7.68.
The breakdown for customers: Gas $0.24, Water $0.49, Solid Waste $0.66, Sewer $1.72, Electric $4.57
The dates and amounts of the last rate increases were: Gas FY 2013 – 5%, Water FY 2017 – 5% (CPI +3%), Solid Waste FY 2017 – 2% (CPI), Sewer FY 2016 – 3.7% (CPI) + $.50 Base Rate Increase, and Electric FY 2015 – 2.5%