The Union Recorder

July 18, 2013

Newer meters might increase county water bills

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


Baldwin County Water and Sewer Superintendent Jason Kidd discussed rates, goals, water loss and improvements during the County Commissioners work session Tuesday.

• Bigger water bills

Complaints of higher than usual water bills have an explanation.

The county purchased 1,000 new water meters back in December of 2012 to update and start a more efficient water program, according to Kidd.

Meters must be replaced every seven to 10 years, preventing lost county revenue and inaccurate volume to bill ratios.

Since the start of 2013, the county department replaced 400 of the older meters on Daphney Street, Johnson Avenue, Joy Street, Frazier Drive, Jenkins Street, Marion Street, Oak Drive, Randall Drive, Richard Drive, Thompson Circle, Town Street and Youngblood Road.

Kidd cited one switchover on Kings Road where a high water user’s bill bumped from $63 to more than $400 with an accurate meter. The water superintendent guessed 60 percent of county meters are more than 10 years old with some as old as 47 in the area.

Generally, these meters read at best 80 percent of the true usage, according to Kidd.

The county continues purchasing meters 500 at a time to replace the thousands of out of date models that lose revenue over time.

Commission Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, wants citizens to understand the issue. Currently, the financial losses fall back to the county.

“This isn’t something we are trying to do to punish people. We are just trying to improve our system and get an accurate reading,” Hall said Tuesday.

Commissioner Henry Craig, District 4, said citizens shouldn’t be surprised by higher payments if they don’t responsibly use the resource.

“Our water bills will go up based on that the new meters will read accurately what the resident is using. The county is paying for the water and not receiving adequate compensation for it. We know that,” Craig said.

• Pipe upgrades

Old two-inch galvanized water lines located under 69 or so county roads demand attention.

“All the galvanized two-inch pipes are corroded and leaking,” Kidd said. “We fix one leak, and we have to go back one week later and fix another.”

“If we aren’t fixing it, we are losing water and revenue.”

These old, out-of-date lines exist under some of the poorest conditioned county roads.

Road resurfacing and fixed pipes usually come together.

Kidd plans to replace the galvanized with six inch PVC water lines to improve the integrity of the system. During this process, workers will renew the service lines and replace old water meters.

“There are certain roads where we have a galvanized line under the road, but we also have a PVC on the shoulder of the road we can tap into to cut that galvanized line off,” Hall said. “That would be a simple fix rather than replacing the whole line.”

Seventeen of these galvanized lines can be rerouted to the better PVC lines already in place.  

• Rates as of July 1

County water users have new water rates as of July 1, 2013.

The minimum water bill between 0 to 3,000 gallons is $19, while the sewage bill for the same level is $13.50.

A conservation rate charges more per thousand gallons once people go more than 3,000 gallons.

“We want people to conserve water,” Kidd said. 

• 3,001-5,000 gallons is $4.50 per 1,000/gal

• 5,001-10,000 gallons is $5.05 per 1,000/gal

• 10,001-20,000 gallons is $5.60 per 1,000/gal

• 20,001-50,000 gallons is $6.15 per 1,000/gal

• Over 50,001 gallons is $6.70 per 1,000/gal

Kidd said the department will work with people off payment plans to keep their water on.

• Bad debt collection

Kidd said lowering bad debt each month by turning over delinquent accounts to debt collection after final billing at the end of each month is a goal.

“We are going to start each month collecting faster. Hopefully, we will gain some of this money back that is owed to us. Debt collection is working for us, but you can’t see it,” Kidd said Tuesday.

County Finance Director Dawn Hudson said more than $500,000 in unpaid water bills piled up since 2003.

Kidd took over the county water department in 2011.

“Prior to Jason coming here, I don’t know if there was an attempt for collection,” Hudson said.

Commissioners agreed going back that far would prove difficult but doing a better in-house debt collection job sounded good.


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