By Amy Wenk
At their June 2 meeting, local Neighborhood Planning Units (NPUs) discussed 18 ordinances proposed by the City of Atlanta to increase fees in various departments, including watershed, parks and recreation and public works.
The most debated item was an ordinance by the City Utilities Committee to increase monthly water and sewer rates. The legislation, as well as a 15 percent drought surcharge, was passed out of committee on June 10 without a formal recommendation of support. If approved by City Council this month, water and sewer rates would increase by 27.5 percent this year, with a total increase of 81 percent over the next four years. The new rates will take effect July 1 if passed.
Representatives from the City’s Watershed Department were on hand at the NPUs on June 2 to discuss the increases. Chris Garcia visited NPU-C.
“The majority of the increase is due to the debt service of the projects we are required to do for EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and the consent decrees,” said Garcia, defending the rate increases. “The debt service is for the money we have borrowed to date.”
Despite this explanation, NPU-C attendees expressed their discontent and voted 8 to 3 to oppose the rate increase legislation.
“Every time we turn around, there is something getting thrown at us for water,” said NPU-C Vice Chair Rebecca O’Connor. “It’s getting a little too much to handle.”
Watershed representatives were also present at NPU-A and NPU-E.
“We spent the whole first part of the meeting on the watershed management issue and all the water rate increases,” said Penelope Cheroff, chair of NPU-E. “Everybody asked a lot of questions about it and certainly had a lot of concerns about it. We want to make sure the City is spending [our money] appropriately.”
However, NPU-E did not take a stance on the water and sewer rate increases.
James Nobles, NPU-A chair, also said his NPU did not take an official position on the rate hikes.
“We were concerned about any rate increase, but we didn’t have any comparative data,” said Nobles, adding Mayor Shirley Franklin was in attendance at the meeting. “We didn’t want to go on record in favor or against [the rate increases]. We did discuss our concerns with the Mayor.”
As for the other ordinances, neither NPU-A or NPU-E voted on the proposed legislation. NPU-C, however, reviewed and voted on each ordinance, approving the majority of the proposed legislation.
A public hearing was held June 12 to discuss the fee ordinances, but results from that meeting were not available at press time.
For more coverage on the proposed legislation, visit www.reporternewspapers.net.