LCUB to charge city dwellers less

Those outside Lenoir City to pay at least $15 more per month for sewer by 2011

By Hugh G. Willett

Lenoir City Utilities Board customers living outside city limits will be paying a lot more for sewer service than those living inside city limits, according to estimates released by the utility last week.

By 2011, the average LCUB customer living outside Lenoir City will be paying at least $27 per month more for sewer service. This compares to an increase of less than $12 per month for the average city resident.

Sewer rates for customers outside the city limits will change from the current minimum of $16.32 for the first 2,000 gallons and $8 per additional 1,000 gallons to $30.79 for the first 2,000 gallons and $12.36 for each additional 1,000 gallons by 2011.

The average customer outside city limits now paying $40.32 per month for 5,000 gallons would see an increase of $27.53 to $67.85 per month.

For customers inside the city, the current minimum monthly bill of $15.92 for those using up to 2,000 gallons and $6.39 for each additional 1,000 gallons will rise to $21.24 for up to 2,000 gallons and $8.52 for each additional 1,000 gallons by 2011.

The average customer with an occupancy rate of 2 1/2 people uses about 5,000 gallons of water per month, according to Greg Jones, LCUB's water and wastewater manager.

Based on that usage, a customer inside the city currently paying $35.09 per month for 5,000 gallons would see an $11.71 increase to $46.80 per month by 2011.

The increase in rates is higher for out-of-city customers because the cost of infrastructure and maintenance for those customers is greater, Jones said.

Some LCUB customers living outside the city limits are not pleased with the new rate structure.

"Why should we be paying more than other customers?" asked Pat Hunter, who lives in Loudon County just across the road from the city limits. "The line runs right past my house. It doesn't cost them any more to service my home."

Hunter said she also finds it puzzling that funding the improvements to the water treatment plant should cost more for one group of customers based on their location when water treatment is all done at the same facility.

Rate increases for most customers will average about 33 percent over four years, Jones said. Beginning in 2008, sewer rates will rise 5 percent, followed by a 10 percent increase in 2009, another 10 percent increase in 2010 and a 5 percent increase in 2011, Jones said.

The increase in rates will be used to pay back a $13.5 million state revolving fund loan needed to construct a new wastewater treatment facility, Jones said.

LCUB is currently under a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner's order to increase its wastewater treatment capacity, Jones said. TDEC performed a rate study in conjunction with the loan process to determine the increases.

Although LCUB voted 6-1 in November to approve the increases, the board really had no choice but to raise the rates, Jones said.

"TDEC told us what the rate increases would have to be," he added.

Representation on the LCUB board also is an issue for some customers. Hunter said she does not like the fact that board members are elected by the residents inside Lenoir City.

"Residents in the county can't even vote for the members on the board," Hunter said. "Even the Knox County customers are represented by two members on the board," she added.

LCUB General Manager Fred Nelson pointed out that all members of the LCUB board, except the two from Knox County, are also residents of Loudon County.

"The members of the board are there to represent the interests of both the utility and all the rate-paying customers," Nelson said.