In the fall of 2009, I advised citizens about a unilateral decision the Roswell City Council was going to make. Well the clock has been running and it appears that it will finally come to pass. Council will make the final vote on Jan. 28 for a poorly planned and ill advised new water plant that will saddle a small segment of citizens with astronomical long-term expenses.
The real issue is far more than the location of a raw water tank in Waller Park or the fact that the city council has packed the new zoning ordinances with what amounts to preapproval for high-rise apartments and plans turning that park into a low-income housing project, negatively impact the residential community in close proximity to Waller Park.
The 15 percent of Roswell citizens who get their water from the city will be stuck with a $16 million construction bill and there is more to this number than meets the eye. It is not just about a $16 million bond you will be saddled with, but the reality is that the projected costs to city water customers over the next 20 years that will exceed $31 million according to the financial analysis conducted by the consulting firm Grisham, Smith and Partners!
Please think about this. In the last five years in excess of $3 million has been spent in repair, replacement and upgrading water lines in the affected area. That water distribution grid is an integral part of the Water Enterprise Fund which by state law must be funded by city water customers. The city has failed to inform their water customers of the implications of council's decisions with regard to the additional costs to maintaining hundreds of miles of the existing water distribution system.
I am convinced that the city administration and council are taking unfair advantage of many of its water customers living in some of the older parts of the city. One group consists of seniors who tend not very internet savvy or tapped into social media, and the other group are those living in the condos and apartments who tend to be disregarded by the city. This represents a significant demographic population of the city, and I believe that the city intentionally does not reach out to these citizens to make sure they understand the implications of council actions.
It is also interesting that the merchants and owners of restaurants in the area were never informed by the city of the implications of council's decisions with regard to replacing the existing water plant. Steve Stroud, who is the president of the Roswell Business Alliance (RBA), never called a meeting or sent an email advising RBA members who get their water from the city of the implications of this water treatment plant bond. Why not? Well, he works for the city!!
Stu Moring, Roswell City’s Environmental and Public Works Director stated in a recent article in the Neighbor newspaper, the city of Roswell’s legal instrument, that:
“The planned replacement of the city’s aging water plant will bump those rates a bit higher, although there are no firm estimates of how much. We don’t have an actual rate plan established for the future, but we do expect costs to increase about 1.5 to 2 percent per year, so at some point rates will need to cover that.”
Stu Moring is being deceptive when he states that there has not been any rate plan established. This statement is simply untrue, since he emphatically state during several public meetings last spring that for the life of the loan there would only be a $1 per month rate increase for water customers. He also failed to inform city water customers that the city of Roswell contracted with a very reputable engineering consulting firm (Grisham, Smith & Partners), who provided the city administration and city council a comprehensive Water System Master Plan in July 2010, in which costs were projected to increase 2-3 percent PER YEAR through 2040.
Mr. Moring’s recent public statement is simply a reaffirmation of that extensive analysis conducted in 2010.
Fulton County, which produced nearly 100 million gallons of water per day and has the lowest water rates in the metro area, will be reducing water rated by 5 percent. Yet the city of Roswell, which currently produces a fraction of the above amount produced by Fulton County, or slightly over 1 million gallons per day, refuses to be open, honest and transparent with their limited number of customers, straddling them with astronomical long-term debt that might likely have to be supplemented by all property owners in Roswell. The city Administration and city council wants you to buy into their plan that will raise your already high water rates even higher.
City water customers, I am sorry to tell you but the Roswell City Council
is unlikely to respond to signatures on a piece of paper. I would like to suggest that since this is your very last opportunity to challenge city council that you tell your friends and neighbors who get their water from the city to come out in force and fill the pews in Council Chambers next Monday evening.