The Pickens Water Authority grappled with approving a $2.9 million loan this week.
During its March meeting on Monday, the authority debated accepting a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (or GEFA) loan for $2.9 million to be used for various projects around the county.
Present at the meeting, Commission Chair Robert Jones, though, warned that accepting the money would force another increase in water rates for county citizens.
“I’m not willing to raise the rates,”
Jones said. In October, the Water Authority raised its water rates, receiving backlash from local business owners for the decision.
Jones wasn’t alone in his hesitation. Members of the Water Authority were united in their reservations regarding raising rates. “[It] takes most of the rate increase [from September] to pay the bills now,” said Pickens County Director of Utilities Larry Coleman.
The loan would be used to help pay for several projects the County Water Department has lined up, including a new water tower slated tentatively for 2015.
According to Jones and Coleman, this most recent raise in the water rate was supposed to help subsidize the loan for which the Water Department is now considering. The Water Authority said the auditors at GEFA crunched the numbers wrong, and in order to stay on track to repay a new loan, the Water Authority would be required to make another substantial raise to the rates.
“Until [GEFA] capitulate or redo their figures…I don’t think [the loan] would be a good idea,”
He did, however, mention “something in the works” with The City of Calhoun, a deal presumably aimed at lowering operating costs, although he wouldn’t offer any specifics. As of right now, Pickens County brings in roughly 500,000 gallons of water a day from Calhoun, and the Water Authority said most of it goes unused.
Labor cuts were also discussed as part of wrangling in expenses, and overtime has already been drastically reduced according to Coleman. In spite of a plan to cut crew sizes, some Authority members suggested crews receive “standby pay” for emergency calls, which they currently do not get.