LaFayette City Council to vote on an increase in water and sewage rates

Published 7:48 am Saturday, July 16, 2022

LAFAYETTE – The LaFayette City Council is set to vote on a rate increase for both water and sewer services at its next city council meeting on July 25. The rate has not been raised since 2011, according to Ann Gleaton, superintendent of the city water plant.

This comes after the Monday night city council meeting, in which Gleaton said that LaFayette had been approved for a $745,000 grant through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in order to make major renovations to the water plant.

However, in order to finalize and receive the funding, ADEM is requiring a written letter from the mayor stating that the city’s water and sewer rates would be raised in the near future.

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“[ADEM] said that we had one of the lowest and worst rates in the entire state of Alabama,” Gleaton said. “Because of that, they are asking that [the city council] give the mayor permission to send them a letter in writing stating that we will raise the rates in the near future.”

ADEM’s database shows that the average price for 5,000 gallons of water in the state of Alabama is approximately $36.11. In LaFayette however, the average price is approximately $26.49, well below the state average. According to the database, this puts LaFayette in the red for cost recovery, meaning that the utility rates do not effectively cover operational expenses.

City Attorney Mack Tucker stated that this was ADEM’s primary concern, as if the current rates for water and sewage do not cover all of the necessary operating expenses, it would not be reasonable for them to make improvements.

“The reason that they are currently holding the grant is because the rates are so low that we are not able to keep up with our operating costs, much less our capital improvement,” he said. “Essentially, they are saying we are not being responsible, and they don’t want to give a grant to a city that is not being responsible.”

Mayor Kenneth Vines noted that LaFayette does need to take advantage of this grant to get the much-needed improvements to the water plant, even if it means increasing the water rate. These improvements would include a new filtration console, a new computer system, service on the current filters and several system quality updates.

“The water issue in LaFayette was something I ran on and I believe our citizens deserve quality water … No one likes rate increases, but it is a necessary step we must take for our community,” Vines said.

After a brief discussion, the city council determined that LaFayette does need the grant funding for infrastructure improvements but that further discussion would be needed to determine exactly how an increase to the water and sewage rate could be implemented.

At the work session on Wednesday, the council revisited the topic but did not specify how much the rate would increase.

When contacted, the city of LaFayette did not give any further details.