West Point Light and Water Department Superintendent Dwight Prisock, right, explains the need for water and sewer rate increases to the West Point Board of Selectmen Tuesday night. From left, West Point Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins, City Attorney Orlando Richmond Sr. and Ward 1 Selectman Rod Bobo listen to Prisock’s proposal. The board approved the rate increases unanimously.
Photo by: Tim Pratt
January 12, 2011 10:36:00 AM
WEST POINT -- Customers of West Point Water and Light Department are in for a rate increase.
The West Point Board of Selectmen Tuesday approved water and sewer rate hikes for residential and commercial Water and Light Department customers, both inside and outside the city limits.
West Point Water and Light Department Superintendent Dwight Prisock said the rate increases are necessary if the city wants to provide service to approximately 120 customers annexed into West Point from Clay County in 1998. The rate hikes also are needed because operating revenues have decreased in recent years due to the closures of Bryan Foods and Artex Factory Outlet -- two major water and sewer customers. Additionally, the Water and Light Department must paint two water tanks at a cost of approximately $100,000 each, according to an order by the Mississippi Department of Health, Prisock said.
Mayor Scott Ross emphasized the improvements are necessary, and customers in the annexed area should have been given water and sewer service years ago.
"This is something that should have happened within five years of the annexation," Ross said. "We didn''t create this obligation (to those residents), but we are obligated."
Ward 1 Alderman Rob Bobo said he didn''t want to approve the increases, but agreed with Ross on the necessity, saying "We didn''t create this monster," but now must react accordingly.
Residential customers inside West Point city limits currently pay $16 for their first 2,000 gallons of water per month and $2.70 for every 1,000 gallons used thereafter. Selectmen Tuesday approved an increase for residential customers inside city limits to $23 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3.20 for every 1,000 gallons used after the 2,000-gallon threshold is met.
For residential customers outside city limits, the rate hike will increase bills from $30 to $35 for the first 2,000 gallons, and from $2.70 to $3.30 for every additional 1,000 gallons.
Commercial customers inside city limits currently pay $20 for the first 2,000 gallons of water, plus $2.80 for every additional 1,000 gallons. The proposal approved Tuesday by selectmen increases the rate to $27 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3.40 for every 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Commercial customers outside city limits currently pay $30 for the first 2,000 gallons and $2.80 for every additional 1,000 gallons. The new rate structure increases bills for commercial customers outside city limits to $40 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3.50 for every additional 1,000 gallons.
Current residential sewer rates are $15 for the first 2,000 gallons, plus $1.70 for every additional 1,000 gallons. The new sewer rate will be $17 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3 for each every 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Current commercial sewer rates are $20 for the first 2,000 gallons and $1.80 for every additional 1,000 gallons. The new rate increases commercial bills to $30 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3.10 for every additional 1,000 gallons.
The Water and Light Department has approximately 40 customers with $65 fixed rates, but those rates will increase to $84.
The rate increases will not cover planned improvements to the city''s wastewater treatment plant. Selectmen may have to increase rates increase again when it''s time to make those improvements, Prisock said.
Selectmen heard a first public hearing on the rate increases in October and a second hearing Tuesday night. While a handful of people spoke out against the new rates in October, no members of the public commented Tuesday.
In other business, Selectmen voted 6 to 1 to hire three new officers for the West Point Police Department. Only Ward 4 Selectmen Keith McBrayer voted against the hirings, saying the city is going to have to find the money for the roughly $40,000 a year each new officer would cost in salary and benefits.
Ward 2 Selectmen Homer Cannon has been instrumental in the push to hire new officers.
"We need these officers," Cannon said.
Cannon cited statistics which show the West Point Police Department responded to 8,279 calls in 2009, but the number of calls increased 37 percent in 2010 to 11,387.
The number of cases handled by the West Point PD increased 104 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 161 to 329. Of the 161 cases in 2009, 88 were solved; in 2010, investigators solved 198 cases.
Police also issued more traffic tickets in 2010 than 2009. In 2009, the West Point PD issued 1,487 tickets; in 2010, West Point police issued 2,257 tickets.
The number of arrests, however, decreased between 2009 and 2010. In 2009, 553 people were arrested, while the total dropped to 507 in 2010.
Interim Police Chief Bobby Lane said the police department has 25 officers, with 19 of them serving as patrolmen. The optimal number of officers is 32, Lane said.
"The police department, they can only do so much with the amount of manpower they have," Cannon said.
The West Point Police Department is projected to spend about $7,000 per month in overtime over the next six months. The city''s hiring of three new officers will help cut down on overtime and its associated costs, Lane said.
Cannon said he will be "watching closely" to make sure the police department is scaling back overtime pay.
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