Monthly bills of McMinnville Water and Sewer customers will increase Oct. 1.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved a water and sewer rate increase of 5% in 2020, 4% in 2021, and 4% in 2022. The measure did not pass unanimously.
“I’m not going to vote for this tonight,” said Alderman Mike Neal. “I just don’t think it’s a good time. Our community is already pretty stressed right now. I’ve heard ‘it’s just a few more dollars’ but we’ve got people struggling as it is. Some of them may not have lived a life of privilege that some of us may have. It’s a struggle every day and every month to meet their bills already.”
Neal asked the board to wait and for an independent review to determine if an increase is needed.
“We don’t know about our budget situation just yet,” Neal said. “We may have to have a property tax increase. I’d really like to see this be put off until the end of that. No disrespect for James C. Hailey and Company but I would like to have input from someone who does not have a financial interest in this to tell us if we need all of this, or not right now.”
Neal drew support from one other board member.
“I agree with, Mike,” said Alderman Steve Harvey. “This is a 5% increase the first year and then 4% for the next two years after that. If we do need the 5%, I don’t know why we can’t come back next year and add 4% more if we need it then. I don’t want to approve all three years right now.”
The board recently approved a $1 million project within the Water and Sewer Department to be paid by its general fund. Additionally, James C. Hailey & Company representative Nathaniel Green says the city could be looking at state-mandated improvement in the future.
Mayor Ben Newman, Vice Mayor Ryle Chastain and Aldermen Kate Alsbrook, Everett Brock and Rachel Kirby voted in favor of the three-year increase, while Neal and Harvey voted against it.
“Our sewer is in pretty bad shape,” said Newman. “Funding these projects is not a short-term issue. It’s a long-term goal to get the money in there to be able to do it. If we don’t do it, we may have some issues. The best way to handle this is to get some money in there to handle it. We can’t continue to push the issues down the road, which we have been doing for years. Not that it’s anybody’s fault, necessarily. It can be rather expensive.”
Tuesday’s vote was final approval on the ordinance. The increases will take effect Oct. 1 of 2020, 2021 and 2022.