Residents of Fairlawn met on Tuesday at Fairlawn Elementary School for a public hearing discuss the elimination of the Pulaski County Sewerage Authority which would result in an 87 percent increase in rates for residents.
Around 100 residents filled the room of the elementary to hear from the PSCA board members who were present. The meeting began with a statement from Dennis Setliff, the current chair and a Fairlawn resident of over 50 years.
The PCSA was created in 1965 to give residents water as well as sewer. While the Public Service Authority still provides water to the area, the PCSA has taken care of the sewer on their own with a plant in Radford. Since 1965, the monthly rate per family has been $6.17, which equates to about $23 in 2017 due to inflation. If the PCSA were to be eliminated, the rate would increase to around $44 a month.
The plan for rate increases would take place over a five-year time period and the first two increases would take place in January and July of 2018. After five years, the flat rate would raise from $23 to $44 a month and then the flat rate would eventually disappear and be based solely on usage.
Many of the residents were concerned by this price spike, part of which has been caused by the recent projects by the PCSA which has left them without money in the bank.
This past year, the PCSA 3,100 of the 8,100 feet of terracotta piping that runs through the area. The cost of this was more than expected and has entirely wiped out PCSA’s funds. However, while a smaller raise in rate would cover expenses for the year, it wouldn’t give PSCA the savings necessary should something go wrong and need fixing.
“The system’s infrastructure is like a car,” Setliff said. “As it gets older, it needs maintenance.”
Joe Gurthie is the supervisor of the board and made it clear to the residents in the room that such a low rate is not sustainable for the PSCA to stay in business.
“Nobody wants their rates to go up, but here’s the problem: you’ve got to have enough revenue coming in to the service authority in order to pay the bills,” Gurthie said. “Our bill is to the Pepper’s Ferry Waste Water Treatment plant and they charge us for every gallon of water that goes into the plant. For that we have to have money coming in. There isn’t currently a sufficient amount of money coming in to pay that bill. There used to be some reserves but all of those reserves have been spent.”
One of the issues that Gurthie mentioned was the fact that the residents of the area are paying on a per month basis but the Pepper’s Ferry plant is charging on a per gallon basis. This means that if the rates don’t change, the PCSA is putting out more money coming in because the rates are so low. If the rates are to change, one positive aspect is that each person will be charged on their usage. Right now, a household with five people is paying the same bill as a person with only one person in it.
Former PCSA member Kyle DeHart passed out an informational packet before the meeting, stating his concerns on the matter. DeHart had been a member of the board for 34 years and raised numerous concerns about the matter at the meeting.
“I don’t understand why we are giving into a 50year rate increase and lose control of our sewer system to another authority that in my opinion only wants our revenue,” DeHart said.
One of the areas of concern was that this would be part of a timeline that would cause Fairlawn to lose their individual identity. Many of the residents addressed the notion that they had lived here for years and that this community is unique and individual.
With all of the concerns raised by the community about the rates and the issues thereof, the board decided to postpone the vote until further notice.