Ordinance would revise schedule of rates on water/sewer tap fees, meter installation

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen has passed an ordinance on first reading that would revise the rates for water/sewer tap fees and meter installation.
Board members took the action during their Feb. 19 regular monthly meeting on a 3-1 vote, with Alderman Billy Ray Morris the lone dissenter.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for final reading at the board’s March 19 meeting.
It states that, in accordance with Section 4 of the Town Charter and Title 18 of the Municipal Code, all water and sewer services are established under rate schedules adopted by “appropriate ordinance.”
It notes that the board desires to establish charges that “bear a reasonable relationship” to the cost of providing those services for residential and commercial customers.
It also acknowledges that those charges will be reviewed after The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Services concludes a water and wastewater rate study.
The ordinance proposes a water tap fee of $1,000 for residential and $2,000 for commercial. The sewer tap fee would be $1,500 for residential and $2,500 for commercial.
A proposed schedule of charges on water meter installation for residential and commercial customers would be $350 for ¾ of an inch, $500 for 1 inch, $800 for 1.5 inches and $1,200 for 2 inches or above.
The ordinance notes that the installation costs would apply to water meter replacements not applicable under the “automated” meter replacement schedule.
The charges for meter “deposits” would be $50 for residential and $150 for commercial.
John Smith, southwest regional president of First Citizens Bank, said during the “Citizens’ Comments” portion of the meeting that several builders have told him how “exorbitant” the fees are in Oakland. So, he gathered some information from municipalities in Fayette and Tipton counties.
Smith said the total fee to start a 2,500-square-foot heated house in Oakland is approximately $9,100. He noted that the price ranges from $2,200 to $2,400 in Munford and Atoka and $4,700 to $5,300 in Rossville, Piperton and Somerville.
“I’m just here as a concerned businessperson,” Smith said. “It seems to me we’re sending out a negative signal that we might not want growth in the community.”
It not only “discourages” some builders, he said, but it “inevitably” reduces the potential sales and real estate tax revenue that Oakland should be receiving from new houses constructed.
“Some builders I’ve talked to have pulled out and are building elsewhere,” he noted. “Others are considering that because of the fees.”
Smith said he would “greatly appreciate it” if the board would “strongly consider” adjusting the fees to be more competitive with the other municipalities in Fayette and Tipton counties.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Alderman Karl Chambless noted that the proposed ordinance decreases the residential water tap fee from $2,000 to $1,000 and the sewer tap fee from $2,500 to $1,500. So, the total residential fees would be reduced from $9,106.60 to $7,106.60.
But Morris said Oakland should not be “making money” off the builders and developers, who he called the “heartbeat” of the community. He said they will not only bring in more residents, but the town will use the additional tax revenue generated for anything from “schools to streets.”
“These guys are the ones who hit the dirt,” he noted. “They are the ones who put up our rooftops, and they are paying our salaries.”
But citing Oakland’s property tax rate of .2975 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation, Chambless said it is the “lowest” among Fayette County’s municipalities. And because the fees generate “just enough” revenue to “pay the bills,” he said the town does not make any money on them.
Mayor Chris Goodman said every builder in the community knows that he and all the aldermen want “good, smart growth.”
“We want to sustain what we’ve got,” he noted. “We want to be able to add to the feel of what we’ve got.”
Goodman acknowledged that it took the administration “a little longer than it probably should have” to put the fees “back on the agenda.” But he said the board members are just following the ordinance that was passed before they were elected.
The mayor said it is important that the board and the builders, bankers, developers and businessmen “come together and talk about it,” so that they all understand their “mission” and the direction in which they are moving.
“So, I hope that tonight is just a start in the future of us all meeting together on a more regular basis,” he concluded. “Not just in times of need to address things, but the ability to look at it moving forward, so that we can go together.”