Chairman orders staff to find ways to reduce 8% water rate increase
by Jon Gillooly
September 18, 2012 01:27 AM | 3193 views | 8 8 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Cobb Chairman Tim Lee i<br>Staff/File
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee i
Staff/File
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MARIETTA — County Chairman Tim Lee, who serves on the board of the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority, called on staff to leave no stone unturned in an attempt to reduce the projected 8 percent annual rate increase the water wholesaler intends to pass on to customers.

Both Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell have voiced concerns over the county transferring $20 million from the Cobb Water System to the county’s general fund to help balance the budget, and then raising water rates, a practice some consider a back door tax increase.

Lee told fellow board members on the Water Authority on Monday that while the county’s fiscal year 2013 budget accounts for the projected rate increase, “it was not a happy moment” to have to include it in the budget since it was the only line item that is projected to increase.

Marietta City Councilman Grif Chalfant, who also serves on the board, said county customers aren’t the only ones unhappy with the rate increases.

“Our guys are kicking and screaming too,” Chalfant said.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, chairman of the Water Authority, said “We get a lot of heat from folks when we do that annual increase.”

Cobb is the largest customer of the Water Authority, buying about two thirds of the water. Cobb is followed by Paulding County, which buys about 12 percent, then the city of Marietta, which buys about 10 percent and the city of Smyrna, which buys about 5 percent, said Glenn Page, general manager for the Water Authority.

Lee suggested that Page look at refinancing the Water Authority’s debt at a lower interest rate as a way to cut costs. Page will bring the board his findings at next month’s meeting.

In other business, the board voted 7-0 to approve a five year $263 million capital improvement program spanning from 2013 to 2017.

Page said there needs to be new pipes that carry water from the traditional east Cobb area to southwest Cobb and Paulding County. Board member Earl Smith expressed concern over Paulding County pursuing construction of a new reservoir. Smith asked what happens with the new infrastructure the Water Authority intends to build if Paulding determines it no longer needs to buy water from the Authority once its reservoir is built. Page said he didn’t see that as becoming a problem since Paulding is projected to need 72 million gallons per day by 2035 and the proposed Paulding reservoir is only planned to produce 36 million gallons.

“The plan that we put out there only has us planning to produce 36 not 72,” Page said. “If for some reason they’re unable to build that reservoir, they’ll need more from us and that will be the time for us probably to renegotiate our contract.”

Page said the $263 million capital improvement plan breaks down into $49 million for new or upgraded pipelines, $73 million for pipe replacement projects, $108 million for plant improvements, $4 million for a new storage tank, and the remainder for finishing the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir, buying land for a future reservoir in northeastern Cherokee County, equipment and funds to relocate pipeline for unexpected state Department of Transportation projects.

Also Monday, the board reelected Bacon and David Austin chairman and vice chairman respectively for another year and elected board member Charlie Crowder secretary.
Comments
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Ticked Employee
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September 20, 2012
I can't get a raise but the bums on the board will approve hundreds of thousands in ridiculous and sometimes frivolous expenditures. Did we really need to spend well over 100k for sod and landscaping in grass fields? How about that pergola that absolutely NO ONE has used? How about that dam we spend 100 million on...how's that working out for us? Why we continue to recycle the same people who weren't worth their salt in surrounding counties is beyond me. Take our new HR person who was worthless when she worked for Cobb County, and has been mistaken regarding various issues more than she's been right. How about the Florida hire to be Director of Operations who admits he couldn't pass a state exam if he tried. In fact, the vast majority of those in charge have been here so long but haven't actually worked in the field manage to keep us chasing our tails more times than not. Why you ask? Because they refuse to address issues raised by employees.
dustoff
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September 18, 2012
The Cobb Water System is a revenue producing system and they fund all of their operating cost from the income they produce. The Water System does not get one dime of tax money.

There is a provision that allows a certain percentage of the gross income of the Water System to be transferred to the general fund. This was not done for many years as the County tax base covered the budget.

Now with lower property values and less tax income being generated they BOC has started taking the money from the Water System.

Cobb County has the lowest water and sewer rates in the metro Atlanta area.
Yet again
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September 18, 2012
the same people flock to any story on the MDJ about Tim Lee and just make negative comments. It is starting to get a bit like Mariah Carey's song Obsessed. I highly recommend "Kennesaw Resident" and "TIC" take a look at the lyrics - you might find them familiar
Kennesaw Resident
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September 18, 2012
I didn't say anything about Tim Lee. I simply put my MBA in Finance to use and noted that putting the $20 million in capital reserve would be the most appropriate use of the funds. It seems to me you are the one drawing negative conclusions abut Mr. Lee based on my comment.
TIC
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September 19, 2012
@ Yet Again

There is a vast difference between negative comments and stating the obvious.

As with Obama, Lee is simply putting off the inevitable by using temporary stop gap measures to balance the budget. A cowardly and unsustainable way to run an organization.

And FYI, I try to take my motivation and knowledge from legitimate sources, not from some silly song lyrics. I suggest you grow up and try the same.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 18, 2012
It seems to me that proper fiscal management demands that the $20 million be put in reserve for the needed capital improvements, otherwise Cobb County will hit us again for those improvements.
simply furious
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September 18, 2012
Yes, Tim, look under those stones. Am sure words will come to you to tell the people they are out of luck. I am total electric and I can assure you, Tim, that I pay quite enough and by the way, that 8% is just another tax.
TIC
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September 18, 2012
Pretty soon Lee will run out of various ways to prevent him from actually having to budget revenues and avoid cutting spending.

That's where the real problem resides and decision time is fast approaching if the tax digest doesn't increase.
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