- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

SUMMIT, Miss. (AP) - Summit leaders have approved a 22 percent increase in water and sewer rates.

The Enterprise-Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1JWkb8P) the council voted 3-0 Tuesday to raise the minimum bill from $53.35 to $69.13. Councilman Daryl Porter Jr. was absent.

Water and sewer rates are rising from $15.11 to $22 per month. Capital improvement fees are going from $6 to $8 per month. The town also charges per 1,000 gallons used after an initial 2,000 gallons. The new rate would be $3.10.

The new rates take effect Nov. 1.

The move comes nearly two weeks after the council heard from Alexander Brandon of Fayetteville, Arkansas-based Communities Unlimited, who presented a study that showed expenses outpacing revenues, with current rates set to send the town into deep deficits in less than five years.

Part of the problem stems from the higher costs of operating the town’s nearly year-old wastewater treatment plant, a $3 million-plus facility.

Mayor Percy Robinson said that like the decision to build the plant, raising rates to sustain finances is as equally an important and difficult a task.

He said the town would have faced steep fines from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for wastewater violations had the plant not been built.

And he said water rates would already be more expensive than the proposed increases had the town sent its wastewater to McComb’s treatment plant.

“This board has had two tough decisions to make: One, to build a plant, the wastewater treatment facility,” the mayor said. “We were proactive in going to DEQ, explaining to them what we were going to do to put the wheels in motion and build the plant.

“The second tough decision was to raise the water rates. It’s a tough decision, but my hat’s off to you gentlemen. It had to be done.”

While the rate increases are significant, they’re still not enough to maintain long-term water and sewer operations, and officials expect to pass additional increases - albeit to a smaller degree - in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

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Information from: Enterprise-Journal, https://www.enterprise-journal.com

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