Originally created 06/11/02

Water fees set to rise to account for growth



AIKEN - The inevitable cost of growth deadlocked the Aiken City Council much of Monday night before it settled on new water and sewer fees.

At issue is how to pay for future water and sewer needs: through higher fees for current residents or higher water impact fees for future residents.

"We're at the point where you have to plan for the future," Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said. "If we want a good system ... then we've got to do something."

In the next five years, the city will be faced with rehabilitating about $4.8 million in water and sewer equipment, while it will have to spend $4.9 million on facilities to handle new growth, City Manager Roger LeDuc told council members.

Mr. LeDuc presented council with four alternatives. One end of the spectrum called for placing the burden of new growth on new residents and businesses, with $1,075 water impact fees and a 1 percent increase on both water and sewer services.

At the other end, council members could choose to charge impact fees of $400 and increase water and sewer services by 4 percent.

Meanwhile, Mr. LeDuc warned the council that fees would almost certainly have to go up again regardless of its decision. The city has grown by an average of 300 homes a year for about five years, he said.

Almost all the new homes have been built on Aiken's southside, he added, which is where much of the city's water and sewer improvements are planned.

Council members Don Smith, Pat Cunning and Lessie Price expressed concern that high impact fees would scare off development to the north.

"Those folks (on the north side) are having to foot $5 million in growth on the southside. Yet there's no development going on on the north side," said Mrs. Price, who represents north-side residents.

The council eventually settled on charging an impact fee of $750 and fee increases of 2.5 percent. The council, which has collectively agreed that the north side needs to be developed, discussed incentives for new business and residential growth. No action was taken on the matter.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.



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