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Ordinance amends Code that sets water, sewer fee

By Bill Short
flag-city-logoThe Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously passed an ordinance on final reading to amend the Municipal Code that sets water and sewer fees.
Board members took the action during their Dec. 12 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Chris Ford.
The ordinance was unanimously passed on first reading at the board’s Nov. 14 meeting.
It states that the board desires to operate the city’s water and sewer systems in a “fiscally responsible” manner and to comply with requirements of the Tennessee Water and Wastewater Financing Board.
Tennessee Code Annotated Section 68-221-1010 requires a city to regularly review its water and sewer rates to ensure that sufficient revenue is generated to cover all the expenses of the systems.
On July 1, the city assumed responsibility from Shelby County for all sewers in the Lucy area, which flow to a Memphis Wastewater Treatment Plant. So, Millington must establish a separate zone and rates for that area to cover its cost of operation.
The ordinance notes that MLG&W, which provides water to some residents of the city, bills it in 100 cubic feet. It is also billing the related sewer fees for Millington when those residents have city sewers. So, the city must establish sewer fees in 100 cubic feet for those billings.
The ordinance states that the City Hall staff continues to be questioned regarding reconnection charges in Section 18-129 of the Municipal Code. So, revised wording has been developed for the existing fees.
On Oct. 10, the board adopted a Drought Management Plan for the city’s water system. The plan provides for surcharges and fines to enforce reductions in use during announced drought conditions. So, it was necessary to amend the Code to establish those amounts.
The ordinance states that the board has reviewed all the water and sewer rates in relation to expenses. It has determined that rates for the city’s “historical service area” do not currently require changes, except for sewer system customers billed in 100 cubic feet.
During discussion shortly before the vote, City Finance Director John Trusty said the Drought Management Plan lists “fees and fines” that must be established by ordinance. So, they are “incorporated” as Section 4 of this ordinance.
He also acknowledged that some of the “wording” about reconnection charges has been “modified” to address concerns that residents have expressed.
“We haven’t changed the fees at all,” Trusty said. “We’re just changing the names of how we term what we’re doing.”
While noting that there has been “a lot of discussion” about the reconnection charge, Alderman Bethany Huffman asked Trusty to explain why the ordinance renames it a “service” charge.
Under the ordinance, Trusty said, customers’ service will be “cut off” if they have not paid their bills by the 22nd day of each month. But as a “convenience,” the city has begun allowing them to pay the $25 reconnection fee so their service will not be discontinued.
“As opposed to literally following the wording of the ordinance,” he concluded, “we would just take them off the list if they paid before we’d gotten out to their house. So, once it’s past the 22nd, the fee is now a service fee.”

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