Blountsville customers petition utility board

A customer petition being circulated in Blountsville compares Blountsville Utility Board rates to rates of nearby systems and asks the company to “operate more efficiently (spending less) and look at a formula reducing the minimum bill.”

The petition notes that the minumum current rate for water and sewer service is $49 in Blountsville, an increase from $22 in 2007. An attachment to the petition signup sheet entitled “Comparison of Blountsville Utility Rates” provides the following information:

Blountsville minimum rates 2007: water $12; sewer $10; total $22 per month.

Blountsville minimum rates 2011: water $22; sewer $27; total $49 per month.

Increase in minimum rate is

120 percent.

The minumum monthly rate for Snead is quoted as $32; for Cleveland, $36; and for Oneonta $36.76.

The attachment notes that Tyson Foods has experienced no increase in its rates.

City council member and former utility board manager Marlin Murphree said he was aware of the petition and had been told that several hundred people have signed it.

“I think it’s gaining momentum because people don’t like the amount of money they’ve been spending at the utility board. From what I’ve heard, people are lining up to sign it. You might ask Mayor Millwood what he thinks about this, because I think he’s gotten some figures together to answer the petition. (The Blount Countian attempted to reach Millwood, but he was out of town and unavailable for comment.) I think he would say that if you got up to five or six thousand gallons on usage, the cost wouldn’t be that different from other systems. But then, the critics would say that the majority of their people are on fixed incomes and pay the minimum rate, which is higher than other systems,” he said.

Blountsville Utility Board manager David McAlpin said that the rates were high because operating expenses had risen over a considerable period of time when rates had not increased. “The board discussed this for months when they were deciding to increase rates and it was very painful. We had people come to the board meetings and we tried to explain the reasons. I think we sent out letters to everyone before the increases went into effect to explain why it was needed,” he said.

McAlpin referred further questions on underlying costs of operation to Tim Smalley, auditor for the utilities board.