Originally created 08/12/97

Aiken approves sewer rate hike



AIKEN - Sewer bills will go up 5 percent a month following Aiken City Council's approval of a rate increase on Monday.

Estimates are for the average sewer user to pay 89 cents more per month effective Sept. 1.

City Manager Steve Thompson said the increase was needed because Aiken County Public Service Authority passed on rate increases to Aiken, and also North Augusta, for wastewater treatment effective Oct. 1. The increase was 5 cents per 1,000 gallons.

The city has also come up short on expected water usage revenues for a variety of reasons, he said.

Residents have used less water due to good rain falls, and industries like Beaulieu of America through conservation have used considerably less water than they said they would, Mr. Thompson said.

In Beaulieu's case, the use is about one-fourth of what was expected, he added.

"Rainfall is good for all of us homeowners," the city manager said. "It's not good for city utility services."

In other business, the city council in a 6 to 0 vote approved purchase of a car with cellular phone for use by Mayor Fred Cavanaugh. The mayor abstained from voting.

Mr. Thompson estimated that the cost would be about $20,000. The city will trade out one of its older cars to help in purchasing the mayor's car, he said.

The deal can't be done until Nov. 1 because of restrictions on how soon a change in compensation is allowed following the council's approval. In the work session preceding the council meeting, City Attorney Gary Smith said the approved change can't be effective until two or more council members are elected.

The city will hold an election Nov. 4 to fill four council seats.

"The mayor attends a great many public functions in Aiken, around Aiken and in the state," Mr. Thompson said.

"I agree with you, the expectations have increased over the years considerably. We're no longer a local downtown area," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "We're more regional. It requires travel all over. I'm just wearing out my car."

The city council also approved a resolution to support placing the local option sales tax on the Nov. 4 ballot.

And, it approved a prior list of capital improvement projects to be completed over the next five years at a cost of $4.7 million. The council approved on first reading an ordinance to borrow the money.

At the top of the list is a clean-up project at the Aiken County Youth Correctional Center, which is already under way. Next is a $150,000 expansion at the Rye Patch, a city-owned facility used as a meeting and reception center; and $3 million in improvements to Citizens Park. Other projects include the airport terminal, a tennis complex, Aiken Department of Public Safety Station #5, an entrance way to Crosland Park and the Woodward Tract Educational Center.