“Outrageous” Water Rates Not So Outrageous

January 15, 2012
By

I’ve had about enough of the myth that the water rates in La Vergne are outrageous and the highest in Rutherford County. I read somewhere that a Realtor is recommending people NOT move to La Vergne because the water rates are so high. If that is really the truth that a Realtor is telling that, I believe the City should sue them because they are not telling the truth about our water rates being the highest in the county.

Here is the residential rate schedule for the water in La Vergne:

Gallons per month Water Rate Inside City
First 2,000 $13.73 (minimum rate)
More than 2,000 $3.54 per 1,000 gallons

Now, figuring water rates can be tricky since all utilities have different methods of figuring the minimum rate and some have a customer fee meaning, even if you use zero water, there is a fee simply for being a customer. And some utilities such as Murfreesboro base their rates on cubic feet of water. One cubic foot is 7.48 gallons. So that can get confusing as well. However, I present to you the water rates in surrounding areas.  **All rates quoted here are the regular residential rate. Industrial and Commercial rates vary wildly. I include the links to water rates I have found so you can look at this yourself.**

Smyrna is significantly cheaper than ours. For their 2011-2012 budget year their (proposed?!) rate is $8.85 for the first 2,000 gallons and $2.75 per thousand gallons for the next 3,000 gallons, and $3.15 per thousand gallons for the next 5,000 gallons and $3.50 per thousand gallons for the next 10,000 gallons. Here is a link to their rate schedule, you have to scroll down quite a bit to get to it, as this includes the rate schedule for everything including gas and sewer.

Now, Murfreesboro’s is just flat out confusing. Your fees depend on your meter size and it is all measured by cubic foot. I think a 1 inch meter is about standard, (but I’m not sure, I think 5/8″ meters are also common for residential customers) but here is their rates:

Meter size      Charge      Allowance, cubic feet
5/8”              $ 8.22                        100
1”                   $ 19.18                      400

So if you have a 5/8″ meter, you’re paying $8.22 as a minimum charge for the first 748 gallons of water, but if you have a 1″ meter, you pay $19.18 for the first 2992 gallons. Which is .0064 cents per gallon, as compared to La Vergne’s .oo65 cents per gallon. The difference is minute. Their rates over the allowed amount are $2.74 per thousand cubic feet. That’s .0036 cents per gallon compared to La Vergne’s .00354 cents per gallon overage. So while their upfront rate is cheaper, our overage is cheaper.

“But, Ivy!” you might be thinking, “That still makes us the highest water rates in the county! Oh noes! Let’s move elsewhere!” Not really. Because the majority of unincorporated and even parts of corporated Rutherford County use Consolidated Utility District. What do they charge?

Water Usage per thousand gallons for residential meters up to 1 Inch:

Minimum Bill (0 – 1,000 gals.) $13.78
1,000 – 5,000 $  6.39 (per thousand gallons)
5,000 – 10,000 $  6.89 (per thousand gallons)
10,000 – 20,000 $  7.39 (per thousand gallons)
20,000+ $  7.89 (per thousand gallons)

That’s right, kids. They pay 5 cents more for HALF the amount of water, and their overage is significantly more expensive as well. And while CUD has a very nice treatment facility, it is just north of Murfreesboro, which means depending on where you live, your water is piped for many, many, MANY miles. I have often marveled at what it takes to run that distribution system. Which, I expect, is part of the reason the water is very expensive there.

See, no matter what people might think, the State is not going to let local utility districts rip off their consumers and charge “outrageous” rates unless there’s a reason behind it. Nobody is making a fortune off their water rates and nobody “got a big raise” out of this. The state, in addition to not letting utilities rip their consumers off, will not allow them to run in the red and rip themselves off, either. Water treatment is not cheap. In addition to the chemicals and equipment, it also takes qualified operators to be able to run the plant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And there is a worldwide shortage of qualified water treatment operators, they are not cheap to hire and keep trained, as they constantly require continuing education.

I gathered links of water rates for a couple of other surrounding cities/counties like Wilson County who has a minimum of $27.49 for the first 2,000 gallons, Metro Nashville, Dickson County, Shelbyville, and Maury County who charges $5.50 per thousand and just got dinged by the state on total trihalomethanes.

So, before you start the “the water bills are outrageous” battle cry, consider the truth of the matter, that we are somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as our water rates. Sewer rates are a similar story. Areas that have their own wastewater plants are usually cheaper, areas that have to ship theirs off like ours, are higher. Most of the links I have provided also include sewer rates and you can do your own math.

 

26 Responses to “Outrageous” Water Rates Not So Outrageous

  1. Sherry
    January 15, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve read this three times and am still totally confused. I think I need another cup of coffee before it sinks in. :) However, I’ve never complained about the new rate. My bill has gone from about $40 to maybe $45 or so, but the higher rate was offset by the fact that my only kid left home for college last fall (so our water consumption is down by at least 1/3). Works for me!

  2. LV2LV
    January 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    We havent seen a dramatic change in my water bill either for my family of 5..maybe $5 is all. In October, we even powerwashed all of our concrete before we painted it and trust me we have a ton of concrete and our bill was maybe $12 more that month.

  3. Elizabeth
    January 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks, Ivy, for this update. I haven’t complained at all about the higher rates (water or taxes). To compensate for the increase, I cut out other unnecessary bills and instead of having 7-8 bills a month to run my house, I have only 4 BILLS now…so I am better off because the increase had me looking for ways to compensate…just saying.

  4. January 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Well my water/sewer bill increased about $15 per month when the rates increased. I am not happy with the quality of the water, but I am thankful that I have running water. Hopefully LaVergne will address the quality issue.

  5. Kathy T.
    January 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Our bill for a family of five went up about $5 a month. The 24″ lines going in along Waldron Road and the new pump station coming this year should help your water quality a lot, Robert. The water leaving the plant is actually very good and the new water lines should help tremendously.

  6. Jen Strange
    January 16, 2012 at 12:07 am

    I don’t have a complaint about how much it costs, but it’s outrageous to me that there’s not a way to pay the water bill online. Last time I tried it wouldn’t let me, and beyond that, there’s a $4 fee. This is the ONLY bill I can’t pay online, and it’s incredibly frustrating.

    • Ivy
      January 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      I would love that too, Jen!!!! I pay everything else online too!

  7. michaelinLV
    January 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Well, I haven’t had the luxury of being able to send kids off to college and unfortunately I decided to renovate my lawn right as the new water rates were announced so my bill has been $20-$50 higher than it used to be (I’m not watering the lawn much right now). What I don’t understand is on the water rates, we get our water from Percy Priest and Smyrna gets their water from Percy Priest, so why is our water so much higher than theirs? I also don’t like the fact that mandatory increases are built into the new water and sewer rates. I think that our elected officials should have to review these and set the rates every year just like property taxes.

    You didn’t compare sewer rates (as stated), where I would imagine the biggest difference is in the total “water” bill. I understand the sewer rates needing to be raised due to metro, but metro has nothing to do with our water.

    • Ivy
      January 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Our rates used to be much lower than theirs. Which is a good thing for the citizens but a bad thing for the maintenance of the water treatment plant. Don’t get me wrong- this does not affect the actual quality of the water, however it could affect the water quality if this went on much longer. The floors have settled badly and most of them will need to be completely redone. The way the plant was originally designed means the office areas have mold all over the place due to bad ventilation plans. All of the ceiling tiles will have to be replaced. The duct work in the office areas has to be replaced. Many of the catwalks around the clarifiers and flumes need to be repaired or replaced. The roof over the office needs to be reworked.

      And there are a couple of things that will be redone that will save the city money in the long run, for example the carbon media in the carbon filters will be replaced with anthracite, which has superior performance to the activated carbon and also lasts much, much longer. There are several other little things like that, but I would have to go on a long super-nerd explanation for it, lol. However, if you want to hear more you can always email me.

  8. michaelinLV
    January 16, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Also on CUD, I would think their rates are much higher because they cover a much, much larger area to cover than La Vergne, that means more pipes and more money gas used driving to the various customers. The advantage for CUD customers is I would imagine many of them have septic so they don’t also have to pay sewage. Plus they don’t have to pay city AND county property taxes.

    • Ivy
      January 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      CUD also has some really, REALLY cool stuff as far as their SCADA and how it operates. That’s what I’m trying to explain though, Michael, nobody’s getting ripped off, the state oversees that and isn’t letting any one water utility charge rates that are getting anyone rich, CUD isn’t overcharging, they’re charging what they need to, as is La Vergne.

      One more thing about the sewage. For three years citizens paid less to La Vergne, than La Vergne paid to Nashville for taking away the sewage. And the thing is, sewer lines still broke and grinder pumps still needed to be repaired and industrial waste still needed to be pretreated and there was still a whole lotta water going into our sewage when it rained (moreso before the stormwater regs came out) which causes overages and costs the city even more money. This caused the water and sewer fund to be depleted massively and is why sewage costs so much for those of us who have to pay for it.

      When La Vergne was building the water treatment plant, the City was told that TDEC was about to close the ability to get a permit to build a wastewater plant, and they had better build a wastewater plant first and get a water treatment plant next. The City did not listen. They should have, as wastewater plants are certainly smelly and unglamorous, but it would have saved the city a TON of money over the years.

  9. Liberty
    January 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    All I want is to be able to pay my bill online, don’t even care if there is a fee, and have my meter checked on the same day every month. Not asking a whole lot here

    • Ivy
      January 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      I never thought about the meter issue before but I am with you x a thousand on the paying online thing. :)

      • Liberty
        January 18, 2012 at 10:11 am

        I’ve lived in 4 different states tht always checked the meter on the same day every month. Now if it was the month of febuary I only got charged for 28 or 29 days, but for the rest of the yr I got charged for 30 or 31 days depending on how many days where in the month. My bill was the same every month because I used the same amount of water every month. My water bill here I get it sometimes with 25 days, 28 days, 35 days???? And their online bill pay here is soo messed up, I was able to get on to my account this month, but it didn’t give me a comfermation # after I paid my bill, went to check my bank account to see if it had come out and low and behold it had not, called them and they told me they didn’t recieve my payment…Great now my bill is late, and my hubby has spent the money not even thinking about, so I will have to wait till friday, hope they don’t cut me off before then, cause I’m also a month behind because of christmas :( And then that’s gonna cost me another $100 to get it turned back on…the reconnect fee is absolutly rediculous Smyrna’s is $50

  10. michaelinLV
    January 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Thanks Ivy, more answers means more questions!

    - I understand maintenance is required for the water treatment plant, but does that maintenance really require the 40% water rate increase? And while major renovations are occasionally necessary, does that justify the 3% annual rate increases over the next several years?

    - On the sewage side, we were told that a large reason for the 100% property tax increase was because the rainy day fund had been drained over the three years we were fighting metro on the sewer rates. So are the higher sewage rates being used to replinsh the rainy day fund, and if so, doesn’t that negate some of the need for the 100% property tax increase?

    • Ivy
      January 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      1. This is not routine maintenance, this is major capital improvements/repairs. Yes, I do believe it completely needed to be raised, and that high. This is not just repairs to the water treatment plant, but also repairs and replacements of main lines and other distribution system issues. My thought on the annual rate increase is to first, save for future major capital repairs and second, because water treatment chemicals are expensive and go up in price all the time. I believe this is meant to keep up with those things. Also keep in mind that Alderman Broeker called for a new rate study from MTAS and we may still see the increase coming down.

      2. We are talking about two totally different funds here. The rainy day fund is part of the general fund, which was, as far as I can understand, not drained by the sewage increase but by the general mismanagement of city funds prior. The water and sewer fund, however, WAS completely drained by the higher sewer rates, which left no money for capital repairs and caused a whole lot of patching the problems rather than actually finding root causes and fixing them.

  11. js
    January 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I live on Chaney Blvd and my water bill used to be $25.68 every month. I asked the water department why it was so high because I was rarely home and when I was I didn’t use much water as it was. There wasn’t a leak anywhere either. They told me that it was the minimum rate. Now my water bill is almost $50. I’d like to know why some people’s houses are only going up $5 and others are increasing by 100%. A friend of mine that lives 2 blocks away, who is very ecofriendly with everything in her house, has water bills of $150. She lives alone and only uses water to do laundry and water her dog.

  12. Ben
    January 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Hmm? My bill went from $30 to $50 with two people. Maybe I’m getting screwed? In regards to “JS” something shady is obviously going on for some people.

  13. michaelinLV
    January 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    So if the water bills are not outrageous (I just got my second bill of the month, talk about an unpleasant mistake from the water department), is it not outrageous that the city is buying 26 new police cars at once? Do you have any insight to share on this Ivy?

    My 2 cents (which I know you want to read!) – bad idea because that means these 26 will all wear out around the same time creating a HUGE expense down the road. Don’t police cars typically cost about $50k fully equipped? That’s $1,300,000. Replace those that need replacing, this looks to me like a way to justify raising property taxes more than what was needed to fund the existing budget (As I remember mentioning at the time, the city only needed to raise taxes to $.75/m assessed to cover the new police officers, fire fighters and other necessities).

    http://www.lavergnetn.gov/pdf/bids/PoliceInterceptorBid2012.pdf

    • Ivy
      January 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Let me ask some questions and I will let you know what I find out. I do know, from hearing from my various police officer friends, that the white police cars, as a general rule, are giant pieces of junk and have some major problems. One of the officers I know ended up with three different cars in one night because they kept breaking down.

      I will ask some questions and see what I can come up with for you, Michael.

  14. Chris Farmer
    January 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Michael there is a massive need for the new Police cars. For starters most of the cars are wore out. We spend more repairing them than they are worth. Public Works Director Skinner has initiated a spread sheet of repairs and cost since he has taken the position. The cost of a lot of the repairs is astronomical. There comes a time that you have to decide whether it is smarter to keep dumping money in a vehicle that has probably had as much in repairs as it cost to buy it new. The major problem is there has been no ASE mechanic in years to keep the preventive maintenance on the vehicles.I can not be quoted on this but I believe in repairs to city vehicles alone last year was more than $300,000.

    That being said a lot of the cars are more than 7 years old. They may look nice to the common person but to get in one and know anything about vehicles you will quickly see they are at the point of no return. Now on the thought of they all wear out at the same time I see your point but the way I addressed that was we lease the cars and get 10 a year after this year. On the 5th year you decommission the 10 that are most wore out. We should never have to buy more than 10 at a time from this point on. With the lease I believe the buy out price is $1. We can then remove the Emergency equipment and remove the “white vinyl” and place these in other departments if they are still road worthy cars. I had requested we buy solid black cars and just have vinyl wrap in white instead of painting them. A little bit of info for all its worth on Emergency vehicles is you have to look at the wear and tear these vehicles go through. Metal fatigue, engine wear, hours of running. I dont know the formula but there is one that gives you what a mile on an emergecny vehicle is equal to on a normal everyday vehicle. It is much higher.

    On the new cars we also requested that they be 6 cylinder cars instead of gas guzzling V8′s. I have seen where people all of the sudden noticed the Dodge Chargers we have thinking they were new. I have been told the newest Charger is a 2005. These may have been purchased as “police cars” but they are not technically police cars in my opinion. They are more of a “race car” there is no need in having a “hemi” in our city patrolling the streets. The view from those vehicles is terrible. There are more accidents in Chargers as police cars then you would think just due to limited site out of the car. Next there has been a lot of discussion from people about all 3 shifts driving the same cars. That would put these cars running 24/7. I can not see them lasting very long if we did that and every year we would be buying at least 26 more. A car was not made to be running 24/7. Even semi’s have to be shut down from time to time.

    This was not a hidden agenda item either as a lot of people on another site seem to think. We did not dream this up last week. It was budgeted last year. It has been there in black and white since last year. If people studied the budget as they claim to have they would have seen this. They would also have seen we did not allocate a full years worth of payment for them as we knew there was an inevitable chance we may not have enough tax money to get them until June or so.

    That all being said this is an opinion and everyone has their own. I personally believe we need them as I have been in the emergency services side of things since I was 18. I see the safety issues from using outdated equipment. We have officers that are some of the lowest paid around yet they still want to work here. That says a lot for the department. I will no longer ask them or anyone else to work without what they need for a lower wage than anyone else. These guys put their lives on the line everyday for all of our safety. I also feel the same way for every other department in this city I watch them all work with outdated and wore out equipment. We expect them all to make chicken salad out of chicken poop. I did not create the situation they worked in for years but I will do my best to give them what they need while I am in office and do what is right. I am in no way pointing fingers at past Mayors or Alderman, everyone has done what they thought was right in their opinion. My opinion seems to differ from theirs.

  15. michaelinLV
    January 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I appreciate your comments and opinions Chris. And let me state that I am not affiliated with “this” group or “the other” group. I have no doubt that what you and the board are doing is what you think is best for the city. But I personally think ALL of our past elected officials did what they thought was best for this city and look where we are today. I can just see it 6 years from now we have a new mayor who says “We have to raise taxes again because of all the bills run up by the last administration,” and the blame will continue.

    You all inherited a city with problems and I understand things needed to be fixed. But I continue to see this city biting off too much at a time. To make an analogy, lets use a house. Let’s say I buy a house that needs some major repairs, but my income is down because the economy is down. So as I have money I’ll replace the kitchen countertops. And then when I have a little more money I’ll put in new carpet. And later down road I’ll renovate the bathrooms. I’m a big picture guy.

    To most of us we look at you on the board and see you guys have just bought a house that needs some major repairs, but instead of doing a little bit at a time you’ve stripped the house down to the studs and are rebuilding from scratch! And of course tax revenues are down because the economy is down but that seems to be no barrier. That’s an outsiders perspective anyway.

  16. Louise22
    January 26, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Although I’m not really sure how a post about water got turned into a debate about police cars, I’ll go ahead and ask a few questions myself since it appears our Vice Mayor is actually open enough to discuss his opinions, which I know we all appreciate.

    While you do make very valid points on the need for new patrol cars, I think there is still some confusion. Are you talking about buying all 26 of these at one time, or are you talking about buying 10 now, and 10 every year for the next few years? And what will be done with the cars being replaced? Will they be sold and the money from them be put toward the new ones? Will they have to be scrapped since they’re in as bad of shape as you claim?

    For any of the “other” group members who might be reading this, educate yourselves, please. The city website plainly says:

    The La Vergne Police Department is made up of 46 commissioned officers, including the Chief, detectives, narcotics/gang unit and patrol officers.

    Vehicle Patrol:
    LPD currently has more than 40 patrol cars which allow officers to patrol the streets of the city during the three daily shifts. They patrol streets and business parking lots to ensure the safety of the residents of La Vergne.

  17. Chris Farmer
    January 26, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Michael and Louise I would like to start by saying I was not trying to say anyone here was part of a group. I should have referred to the fact there is another website that I refuse to respond to because they do not post facts and they personally attack anyone who is not with them. I do post on this site as people here respond with good clean discussion which is very helpful to everyone.

    The police cars just to clear up some confusion. There should be 26 bought thiss year and then 10 every year from now on. This will keep at least 10 revolving new cars out there.

    As for the cars we will decommision they will be stripped and sold on http://www.govdeals.com . That money will then be put back into the police department budget to help offset the cost of new ones. With any luck it will bring in enough money to cover a large part of the cost. Any old equipment that can be retrofitted to the new cars will be placed on them.

    I should point out that all of this is up to Chief Wlaker to present to the baord. He may want to purchase them outright instead of leasing. He may also get the figures and request fewer cars. I honestly do not know. This is his budget and department and he has 30 years of experience so I know he will do his homework before he presents it to us. He walked into this budget that had been prepared by the past Chief. He has presented us wiht many ways to decrease his budget and put more “boots on the street” as he puts it. So we have a lot to consider.

    Also if anyone has noticed we now have a Police Chief who wears a uniform to work everyday and drives one of the oldest Police Cars in his fleet. He passed the Chief’s SUV on to the officers to use on a daily basis. It says a lot about him and his work ethic.

    If government was allowed to sell these vehicles other than the gov deals we would probably get more for them also. Thank everyone who posts on this site for being civil.

  18. DJ
    January 27, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Mr Farmer, may I ask a few questions about the police vehicles? You state that, “He(the Chief)may also get the figures and request fewer cars.” Are you saying that he could do this under this current bid or would the city have to bid again for say 10? Reading the bid document, I could not find anywhere where the city asked for a price per vehicle. The bid is for 26 vehicles (although on page 4 it says 25 vehicles). So in my opinion, you would not be able to say lease 10 from that bid. I would assume you would get a discount leasing 26 at once, but the rate may be different for 10. So how much time, effort and money is put into multiple bids?

  19. Chris Farmer
    January 27, 2012 at 11:42 am

    DJ, I asked and there is no price break on leasing cars until you get into at least 100 or so. That being said I have been told you could lease more than 26 or fewer than 26 and not have to re bid it. As far as what it costs to have to bid something out I do not have an answer yet. I know its not cheap, as a matter of fact Public Works Director Skinner proposed doing a bid on trucks and any other vehicle we may need all at once. That way when a department request something that is not a speciality vehicle it has already been bid and we dont have to spend the money again.

    The Police cars could come back and be cheaper than what we projected they were going to be. When we did our budget there was no price on the new Ford at that time. So I believe we built the price projection off of a Crown Vic which is what Ford said it would be comparable to.

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