By Dave Taylor
Residents of Hawesville will soon see another rate increase on both water and sewer to make up for anticipated revenue from a local industry that didn’t materialize.
“Gentlemen, it is time that we come to the realization that we’re in trouble a little bit, because we need to raise our water and sewer rates,” Mayor Charles King said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We made a little mistake in as much as we gauged our last rates on Century tapping on to our forced main.”
Century Aluminum had all but signed the contract with the city for its wastewater treatment, which would’ve brought in $20,000 a year on a conservative estimate, but a lockout and a change of heart meant they never followed through.
When the city implemented a rate increase in order to show enough revenue to make the payments on a $3 million loan from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, it was allowed to count the pending revenue from adding Century in the calculation.
“That was the anticipation was that money would be there for increasing revenue based on a new customer instead of a rate increase,” explained Matt Curtis, the engineer who works with the city on its water projects, including the rate increase.
Now the city is facing a shortfall in being able to make the payments of $93,000 every six months, and it’s losing revenue in other areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This virus deal has really hurt the city,” King said.
Rules in place have eliminated late fees and other charges the city would normally get, in order to keep people from losing services during the pandemic.
“We cannot charge a late fee, we cannot shut their water off, we can’t charge them a fee for it, and that makes a big difference,” he said.
The council discussed their hesitation to add another increase, but King said although he doesn’t like increases either, the city must meet its obligations or else lose out on any state funds in the future.
“We’ve got to pay the payment or we’re out of compliance, and once that happens everything shuts down as far as any money coming to the city,” he said. “We’ve just got to bring it up to where we can at least meet the payments.”
The council didn’t take any action on the rates but will instead discuss numbers in future meetings.