Thursday August 22nd, 2019 6:48PM

Tallulah Falls water customers facing expected water rate hike

By Rob Moore Reporter

TALLULAH FALLS – It appears customers of one of the state’s smallest municipal water systems face a steep rate hike, possibly 30 percent or more.

An audit of the Town of Tallulah Falls Water System by the Georgia Rural Water Association found system revenues to be at a $35,605 deficit — roughly 45 percent lower than expenses.

Financial figures presented during a public hearing Thursday night show expenses at $64,655 and revenues coming it at only $29,050.

Currently, most of the town’s 71 residential water customers pay $18 to $23 per month, according to officials.

That number may need to be increased to as much as $33 to get the town’s water system enterprise fund to be self-sustaining, according to figures presented at the public hearing.

While the town has only 168 residents, Tallulah Gorge State Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors throughout the year.

Park Manager Jennifer Jones reminded town officials of that fact during the public hearing.

Mayor Teri Dobbs acknowledged Jones’ comment, saying, “The state park is our largest user.”

Councilman Larry Hamilton, who oversees the town’s water operations, elaborated further.

“You all’s usage, if you converted it into individual family homes would be the equivalent of 55 residential,” Hamilton told Jones.

“So, if the state park decides to build a well, it’s a whole new ballgame,” Jones told town officials. “I’m just throwing it out there.”

Dobbs took the opportunity to point out additional information.

“The state park’s water bill is paid [by Georgia Power Co.] because of the relationship with Georgia Power,” Dobbs said.

“We pay a percentage,” Jones said. “The park pays a percentage.”

If a well is drilled at the state park and is successful, it could mean a more than $13,000 hit for the Tallulah Falls Water System’s annual revenue.

Jones told town officials rates for its residential customers likely would have to increase much more than proposed “if the state park decides to go that route.”

Dobbs stressed the likely rate increase is not a profit-making venture.

“It’s to break even,” Dobbs said. “This is not to even have considerable maintenance, to try to improve lines that have been suggested for ISO rating – none of that is on the table today. This is just bringing us to break even. Then, once we break even, if it is the town’s desire to improve the system for fire safety, water pressure, whatever, then we would look at grants and loans, but you have to balance the budget as any business must balance the budget.”

Keith Nelms, town resident and chair of the Tallulah Falls Downtown Development Authority, said he sees the need for the rate increase.

“I support the town in moving forward and truly running like a business,” Nelms said.

Mayor Pro Tem Deb Goatcher offered a possibility on why town officials did not realize the water system operational deficit.

“For public clarification, for people who are not always in meetings, we have combined our police budget and our water budget for a long time, so until we sat down using better business practices and started looking at exactly how much does it cost us to produce water – that was when things became really clear and when we did actually do the work to separate out salaries and things like that,” Goatcher said. “Not as an excuse, but as an explanation for why the picture was not crystal clear. We were looking through muddy goggles for a long time. Honestly, 20 years ago, the water situation was horrible so just the fact that it has improved as much as it has, people were just happy that we had some water.”

At least twice during the public hearing, underperforming fire hydrants were discussed.

Fire Chief Mike Early stressed that the town only has seven hydrants that are classified as underperforming and those are in areas where elevation change comes into play.

Dobbs said the town council will vote June 13 on the proposed rate change that would go into effect July 1. Town council budget meetings, open to the public, will take place at 4 p.m. May 15 and 4 p.m. May 29.

“I’m sorry that the past administrator, it wasn’t brought to his attention,” Dobbs said. “I don’t know why. One thing that I said when I came on board if something comes to the table good, bad or ugly, it’s going to come to the table, and we’ve got to address it. The ball has been kicked down the street too long. The numbers are the numbers.”

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News, Politics, Georgia News
  • Associated Tags: Budget, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls, Town of Tallulah Falls, Mayor Teri Dobbs, Tallulah Falls Water System, rate hike, Tallulah Falls Town Council
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tallulah Falls water customers facing expected water rate hike
It appears customers of one of the state’s smallest municipal water systems face a steep rate hike, possibly 30 percent or more.
11:59PM ( 1 minute ago )
Georgia Urology introduces new robotic surgery technique to Gainesville
Dr. Brent Sharpe, a physician from Georgia Urology, recently introduced retroperitoneal kidney surgery to the Gainesville area.
1:03PM ( 2 days ago )
Residential treatment center, 127-lot subdivision on Hall planning board's agenda
The planning commission is scheduled to consider both items at its May 20 meeting.
10:00AM ( 5 days ago )
Business News
Federal judge strikes down Kentucky abortion law
A federal judge has struck down a Kentucky abortion law aimed at banning a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies
10:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
Police: Armed robbery Friday at Gainesville pie store
Investigators said a black male with a knife entered the store located on Broad Street around 6:00 p.m..
8:51PM ( 3 hours ago )
Gainesville federal court solidifies American citizenship for nearly 50 people Friday
Nearly 50 people became American citizens at the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Gainesville Friday.
6:31PM ( 5 hours ago )
Local/State News
Gov. Kemp signs budget upping teacher salaries
Gov. Brian Kemp has signed a record budget for fiscal year 2020 with a focus on increased education spending.
11:50AM ( 12 hours ago )
Scrap 'Obamacare'? Maybe not all, says Trump administration
Trump administration sends mixed messages on fate of 'Obamacare': Should federal judges salvage parts of the law?
7:05AM ( 16 hours ago )
Stacey Abrams says she's still considering presidential bid
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams says she's still considering running for president in 2020
5:16PM ( 1 day ago )
Governor's Mansion work is troubling to some historians
Changes to Governor's Mansion in Atlanta is troubling to some preservationists, who worry that history is being lost
9:05AM ( 5 days ago )
GBI announces arrest in Banks County 'Jane Doe' case
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has announced the arrest of a Louisiana man in connection with human remains found in Banks County in February 2017.
12:56PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Banks County responders rescue some three dozen people after flooding at Banks Crossing
A Local State of Emergency remains in effect in Banks County while inspectors continue to determine the impact of Friday’s flooding and severe weather on the county and its businesses.
9:11PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Georgia News
Gainesville City School Board looks at pay increases for all employees in district in FY20
After Governor Brian Kemp pushed for and then got pay increases for teachers in the state of Georgia, Gainesville City Schools teachers will see that money in the budget for Fiscal Year 2020.
10:36AM ( 3 days ago )
Hall County School Board members get early look at budget plans for FY20
The numbers are preliminary right now, but Hall County School Board members got their first look this week at a budget for the new school year.
10:03AM ( 2 weeks ago )
Most Habersham County offices open in new location Monday
The majority of Habersham County government offices will open Monday in their new location in the Habersham County Administration Building, 130 Jacob’s Way (off Toccoa Highway), Clarkesville.
10:57PM ( 1 month ago )
Habersham County Commission sets budget review meetings
The Habersham County Commission has announced the dates for budget review meetings for the upcoming fiscal year.
7:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Georgia House passes budget, including raises for teachers
Georgia House lawmakers have passed a 2020 budget that includes raises for teachers, though not as much as originally pitched
By Associated Press
5:21AM ( 2 months ago )