The Thomaston Times
The Thomaston City Council met last Thursday and Friday to discuss the proposed 2013 budget. The new budget is expected to include rate increases in water and electricity.
City Manager Patrick Comiskey told the council that the biggest issue the city faces when it comes to the water department is usage, which is down due to the loss of customers such as the closing of the Martha Mill and the Yamaha plant. He noted that until 2007, around 622 million gallons were sold per year, but currently that number has dropped to 478 million gallons. The plan is to continue to operate with less sales and make only modest adjustments in pricing. Comiskey continued noting that the cost of water quality is going up still as an unfunded mandate from the state, but the city has tried to spread out the increase of cost of water to its customers so there would not be a major increase at once.
Council member Patsy Perdue asked if it was a misconception then that the city made a profit off of the water department, to which Comiskey answered yes, the city is merely trying to keep their head above water.
Comiskey also updated the council on projects for the water department. The city has been lucky to receive grant funding for many of the projects, such as replacing water lines and cleaning out the ones that are still in good shape. There are plans for Silvertown to begin moving the water lines from the back of houses to the front, where the city will only have to tie onto the existing service lines. Comiskey stated the water department believes the water lines in Silvertown are the original lines from the 1930s and they need to be replaced. It will cost around $3 million each to do Silvertown West Village and Silvertown East Village. City crews will be doing as much of the work as possible in efforts to save money.
Rates for both city water and city sewer are expected to go up next year by 35 cents per 1,000 gallons each. The total 70 cents increase should make the average household go up roughly $3.25 a month
The cost of electricity is also going up and Comiskey noted he was recommending a 5.5 percent increase in order to get back in sync with the rising bills from the electric corporations, such as MEAG Power, CEPA, Electric Cities of Georgia and Telecom, of which the City of Thomaston purchases their electricity. Comiskey presented a chart to the council members showing the breakdown of electrical revenue in the city, with 35 percent being residential, 25 percent being industrial, and the remaining 40 percent split between small, medium and large commercial businesses. He also noted that despite the planned increase, county residents living outside city limits and using other electrical sources will still be paying 19 percent more than city residents.
The city uses Veolia Environmental for garbage collection. The three-year contract between the city and Veolia ends this year, but is being renewed for an additional year with no increase in price. Comiskey noted that the majority of people seemed pleased with the service from Veolia.
Comiskey stated that he does not expect an increase in the General Fund or a property tax increase. He noted that 2012 was the first time in the last three to four years that the city has done a property tax roll up, and stated that prior to this year, property owners had been paying a lower rate than they were paying more than 10 years ago, when the mills were still in operation and Thomaston was booming. He added that not many governmental agencies can say that and said that since 2001, the city has been dealing with less money to work with than in the past.
Police and Fire Department expenditures were discussed. Comiskey noted that both police and fire are operating with more personnel the national average. He said the Police Department currently has 20 officers, which, based on the number of officers per 1,000 residents, is six percent higher than the national average for cities in the 10,000 to 25,000 population range. The Fire Department, which currently has 20 firefighters, and again based on the number of officers per 1,000 residents, is 33 percent above the national average for cities their size.