Council lowers water rates, offers disconnect reprieve program
Graham City Council passed an ordinance Thursday lowering all Graham water rates after public outcry over higher bills since new water meters came online in mid-June.
A full house of local residents packed the Graham Visitor and Business Center and spoke their minds about the recent water bills.
Valerie Todd spoke first during the public forum, talking about the lack of warning by the city on how the new meters would affect water bills.
“I would not have purchased new grass nor water if I knew it would have affected my bills so immensely. I understand the averaging had been going on, but when my bill jumps from $78 to $421, it’s shocking, especially when we only have $150 budgeted per month to pay for our water,” Todd said. “The city’s attitude of ‘you owe, so pay,’ it is unreasonable. I, like many other residents, operate on a budget and can not afford such a steep bill that is even higher than my electricity.”
The averaging refers to the method the city used to bill customers while the transition to new meters took place, which used figures from a period when either drought-related water restrictions, or abundant rainfall, kept bills low.
Mayor Jack Graham said there were many ways the city could have approached distribution of the bills and said, due to the way it was handled, the city is offering a temporary disconnect reprieve policy. This policy is intended for those caught off guard by high-priced water bills, allowing them to pay down their bills gradually during the winter months.
“It will go through low water use times and give people an opportunity to get this bill paid, but over a reasonable amount of time that maybe is more budget friendly for them, but we are going to need those folks to come in and sit down and talk with us,” Graham said.
The disconnect reprieves only apply to those who have been in good standing with the city and have kept up with their bills. Those interested can contact city hall and set a time to sit down with Graham Water Department staff, who will determine the resident’s eligibility and work up written agreement between the resident and the city.
As long as progress is made on paying off the bill and the resident is current as of March 28, 2017, their service will not be cut off.
Graham resident Angie Chestnut told Council she lived in Brownwood last year and used 13,000 gallons over that entire year. This month in Graham, she was billed for using 61,200 gallons in a single month. She said she has neither a water sprinkler nor a pool and only one outside hose. Mayor Graham said the readings are high because now the city has changed to accurate readings.
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