Politics & Government

Warner Robins council delays vote on utility rate hikes

WARNER ROBINS -- City Council members postponed deciding on a couple of proposed utility rate increases Monday.

Increases in garbage rates and natural gas rates were on the agenda, but both items were removed after council members raised questions in the pre-council meeting.

Mayor Randy Toms said he expects the items will be back on the agenda at the council’s June 15 meeting, when the council also will consider the proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The city finance department had proposed raising the rates to balance the city’s expenditures for those services.

Residential garbage rates would increase by $1.90 a month per customer, while the rates for commercial dumpsters would increase 10 percent.

City Clerk Bill Harte said the rate increase is needed because of increases in what the city pays to its contractor, the Solid Waste Management Authority of Crisp County. The contract allows the authority to raise rates it charges the city based on the consumer price index. CPI rates have gone up while what the city charges to customers has remained the same, Harte said after the meeting.

The 25-year contract, signed before any of the current council members or mayor took office, has long been a point of contention.

When the issue was brought up during pre-council, one resident complained that the contractor does a poor job of picking up yard waste on a regular basis.

“The intervals in which they come, we don’t know,” said Willie McIntyre, who lives in the Westwood subdivision near Carl Vinson Parkway. “I have a big problem with trying to increase the fee if we can’t get the trash picked up.”

Councilman Clifford Holmes said he wants residents to have more notice before the council voted on either of the fees.

The natural gas increase called for raising the base rate from $7 per month to $7.70 per month. The city charges $2.10 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas, and that cost would increase to $2.31. Harte said the average customer uses 38,000 cubic feet per year.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.