BCDA to increase water rates

By Chad Fell
Courtesy of the
Northwest Alabamian
BEAR CREEK —  The first increase in raw water rates since 1972 by the Bear Creek Development Authority will go into effect Oct. 1.
The BCDA board at its  Dec. 1 meeting, initially approved a contract calling for a water rate increase, with the board deciding to raise the raw water rate from an average of four or five cents per 1,000 gallons to eight cents per 1,000 gallons beginning Oct. 1, 2024, and incrementing an automatic escalator effective for Oct. 1, 2025.
The water treatment facilities affected by the increase include Upper Bear Creek, Franklin County Water Authority and Russellville Water Board, the only three water treatment facilities that draw and treat water out of Bear Creek lakes, according to BCDA Chairman Jeff Mobley.
The rates BCDA charges Upper Bear Creek--which draws out and treats water for Haleyville, Bear Creek and Phil Campbell--will increase, but effects on the individual municipalities  that receive water from Upper Bear Creek will be considered later, officials said.
The motion also included wording stating any increases individual town or municipal water boards pass along to their customers will be at the same percentage increase BCDA will have on the board’s rates.
BCDA Board Member Dean Hubbard, of Red Bay, made the motion to raise the rates with Brad Whitehead, of Colbert County seconding the motion.
Hubbard and Whitehead were the only yes votes. Other board members, who are mayors or represent municipalities that receive water from a board affiliated with BCDA, had received legal advice not to vote due to a conflict of interest, BCDA officials said.
Board members abstaining from the vote were Vina Mayor Michael Moomaw, Hodges Mayor Brian Scott, Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri, as well as Eddie Marbutt, of Phil Campbell and Judge Barry Moore, who represents Franklin County.  Currently, 14 members comprise the BCDA Board - including Hackleburg Mayor Darryl Colburn and Bear Creek Mayor Rob Taylor. BCDA’s current water rate was set  in 1972, based on  five cents for the first 30 million gallons used, then four cents for the next 30 million used, down to two cents, according to  BCDA Director Shannon McKinney.  The rate varies by month but, on average, has been between four cents and five cents, McKinney said.
At the BCDA’s March meeting, McKinney focused board members’ attention on an addendum to the agreement voted upon in December, calling for the same wording in the agreement, signaling a rate change Upper Bear Creek would pass along to its customers.
“All the other water boards are aware of what was passed,” explained McKinney.  “This is just a  put the pen on paper type of thing. Nothing goes into effective until Oct. 1.”
The original water contract from BCDA was effective  Sept. 11,  1972. The increase will only be three additional cents per 1,000 gallons, McKinney explained.
A further breakdown, based on 2,000 gallons of water usage per month among residential or business customers, means if the rate increase is eventually passed on to municipalities, it would be an additional 16 cents per customer, Mobley explained.
“If your power bill has only gone up 16 cents in the past 40 years, you would be quite excited,” Mobley pointed out.
The terms of the original 1972 agreement state that the agreement could be terminated at the 50th anniversary of its passage, provided, that the district may, at its option, extend the terms of the agreement for an additional 50-year period, subject to renegotiation of the rates, according to a copy of the original agreement.

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