Pembroke officials approved a new set of state-mandated water and sewer rates that could save some residents and businesses money – if they don’t use too much water.
The new fees will take effect Jan. 1. They were approved at the city council’s Monday night meeting and officials were quick to note the new rate structure was required by the state’s Environmental Protection Division.
"This isn’t Johnnie Miller or Mayor Judy Cook saying we have to change the rates," Pembroke Mayor Pro Tem Johnnie Miller said. "These are state mandates. But if you look at the overall picture, compared to Richmond Hill and other places – we’re not in that bad a shape."
Yet the key word is conservation, since the new base rate is for consumption of 2,000 gallons or less a month – no matter which of the city’s nine billing categories a user falls under.
Among the changes that could save residents money - W1 or regular household users inside the city limits will see their base rate go from $27 per month for water and $29 a month for sewer to $26 and $27, respectively, which is $3 less than the current combined base rate.
Small business owners in the city’s W4 category will also get a break and see their base rate drop from $50 to $45 month. Those in other categories will see their base rate remain unchanged, but like all water and sewer users, the more they use the more they'll be charged.
"We’re just getting our rates to reflect what the state is mandating," Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook said. "The more you use, the more you pay, but according to the new rate schedule the increase is not that bad."
A sample bill shows Pembroke’s W1 residential water and sewer customers who use 6,000 gallons per month will save $1.40 over current rates while those who use 12,000 gallons will only save $0.20 a month. Those who use 18,000 gallons will pay an extra $4.20 a month.
The new rate structure is part of the state’s push to limit groundwater withdrawals in coastal Georgia, said Matthew Barrow, Pembroke’s city engineer. Pembroke is currently allotted 306,000 gallons per day by the EPD and is using about 250,000 gallons.
"That’s just renewing the existing permit we had for years," he said. "They didn’t give any additional capacity. The EPD is looking to cut everyone back to the current usage levels."
Barrow said most residents use between 6,000-8,000 gallons a month.
"If you’ve got a household of four and mom washes clothes like crazy, you might use between 12,000-13,000. And if you’re a real large family using water constantly you might use 12,000-15,000."
He said the state’s conservation mandate is aimed at users who waste water. And with growth continuing to impact the state’s coast, the state is looking hard at ways to conserve.
"When you go to the grocery store and shop for an hour you shut your car off, you don’t leave it running. This is the same principal," he said. "Basically, if you’ve got one customer using 21,000 gallons a month, that could be three customers using 7,000 a month."
See more on Pembroke city council in Saturday's Bryan County News.