OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County residents, your sewer bill is about to go up, but by how much depends on where you live. On Monday, the Jackson County Utility Board is expected to vote on raising the rate for the sewer treatment and transportation fee which will generate an added $2 million a year.
News of a sewer rate increase is especially bad news for those Jackson County residents who are already pinching pennies.
Thonda Conner lives in Ocean Springs.
Conner said, "For my husband and I, we're both retired and we live on a fixed income. Unfortunately, it's just taking money from somewhere else for us."
The Jackson County Utility Authority officials said there are several reasons for raising fees by 30 cents per one thousand gallons including higher costs for electricity, insurance and labor, however, the main reason is there's a lot that's in the system that's broken.
"Our system needs lots of repairs on the older facilities. Some of our treatment plants are 30 to 40 years old. Many of our transmission pump stations are 30 years old." said Tommy Fairfield, Utility Director. "There's an increase in population and some shift in service areas as well. That is best served through a bond. So the board is also considering doing a bond that would net about $20 million in proceeds from that same $2 million payment."
"The board's consideration is, do we just do the $2 million investment and leave everything else basically band-aid together or do we translate that amount into a bond payment and accomplish about $20 million in repairs and reach a much larger group of our customer base," said Fairfield.
While the Utility Authority is talking a possible bond payment. Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said what's not being discussed is exactly what projects the money will pay for.
"They should have been taking care of it all along and not just doing it in one fell swoop. The communication has to be poor," said Mayor Moran. "They did not give us a capital improvement plan. We have yet to see all the specifics of that. There has been some general information going back and forth and other cities took even larger hits than we did. We're concerned about efficiency. We're concerned about transparency and we're concerned about accountability."
Utility officials said they plan to hold a special public meeting in October to get everyone knowing what's going on. The utility authority charges for sewer as per 1,000 gallons which is different from some cities. So the amount of increase to your bill may differ depending on where you live.
In Ocean Springs, officials are reducing the fees the city charges to residents.
"We cut down our portion of it. Our portion being what we add on to pay our water and sewer employees. So overall it's going to be an average eight percent increase in the water and sewer bill for Ocean Springs citizens," said Mayor Moran. "We're trying to eat it as much as we can without suffering services."
Meanwhile the city manager for Pascagoula said residents will pay an additional $11.82 a month as a result of the Jackson County Utility Authority hike.