The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission fielded questions from the public about its new rate structure Tuesday at a town hall meeting on St. Simons Island.
Both the city of Brunswick and Glynn County commissions approved an amendment to the utility’s operating agreement last week. The amendment allows the utility to go through with its new water and sewer rate structure, which will take effect on July 1.
In an effort to increase revenue from part-time residences, 1,000 gallons of water will be included in customers’ monthly base rate, said JWSC Executive Director Jimmy Junkin. Junkin has characterized part-time rentals as vacation homes and short-term rentals at previous utility commission meetings.
Currently, the amount the JWSC charges customers for water and sewer usage is entirely variable. Because of this, those that use little to no water will pay little to nothing in usage fees.
Junkin said the utility maintains pipes using money from usage fees. Including 1,000 gallons in customers’ base rate will help the utility cover what Junkin called “ready-to-serve” costs, which is the cost to maintain water lines in a useable state. Even if a customer uses no water for six months out of the year, the utility has to maintain water lines year-round.
The utility went with 1,000 gallons to avoid impacting low-income customers, Junkin said. A majority of county residents use 1,000 to 8,000 gallons of water a month, so most customers won’t be affected by the rate change, he said. Most will actually see a drop in their bills, he added.
“I will say the large percentage of our residential customers will see good outcomes as a result of the restructuring,” Junkin said.
Jeff Kilgore, Glynn County resident, asked whether the new structure will cover those costs or if another rate increase is on the way.
“Of course we’re going to have to cover increases in our costs from year to year,” Junkin said. “We’re at that point where we’re going to have minimal rate increases, something around (the Consumer Price Index).”
St. Simons Island resident Mike McKinney asked about the utility’s plans for future major storms. He said around 2,000 gallons of sewage overflowed into his neighborhood between hurricanes Matthew and Irma.
Junkin said the utility is doing what it can, but the solution many want — backup generators at every sewage pump station — isn’t feasible. It would cost around $10 million to set up every station and the utility doesn’t have that kind of money, he said.
To help customers prepare for the change, the utility created a bill calculator which is available on its website at bgjwsc.org/bill-calculator, said JWSC Director of Administration Jay Sellers.