Water Billing Problems

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

     As many of you have discovered the City has been experiencing some serious water billing problems.  The City has invested a lot of money on a new software system for billing and other accounting functions.  Unfortunately, the transition from our existing software to the new has not gone smoothly.  This glitch also occurred at the beginning of the City's water and sewer rate increase.  This seemed to compound the problem which saw a large number of customers getting unreasonably high water and sewer bills.

   It is understandable that problems will and do occur.  Recognizing the problems and taking swift action to resolve them is our commitment to our water customers and residents of our City.  Our citizens and customers deserve a courteous and prompt response whenever they have a problem.  We now have in place a procedure to respond to those with water bills that show unreasonably high water usage which is inconsistent with their normal usage.

    At our last Council Meeting, the Council authorized our City Manager to adjust bills that are obviously in error although any reason for the atypical water usage is may be unclear.  Should you have a bill that you believe to be in error, please contact our City Water Department.  If your problem is unresolved to your satisfaction, please contact our City Manager and 770-704-1508.  And if your problem is not resolved at this point, although I hope that it will be, please contact me at 770-704-1544.  Accessibility to your City government and to your elected officials is an essential element in our ability to serve our citizens.  Do not hesitate to contact me, your Mayor, or any of our City Council members as well.

   We believe our water billing problems are being resolved and that new ones are diminishing. Let's keep our fingers crossed that new problems don't arise.  But if they do, rest assured, we will address them in a courteous and professional manner because the City Staff and City Officials work for you.
Gene Hobgood


Senior Garbage Rates Going Up??

Monday, May 16, 2011

     A City of Canton council  member has proposed an increase in the senior garbage rates from $7.50 per month to $10.00 per month.  The proposed increase will bring the senior rate to the amount charged to the City by Waste Management for senior garbage collection.  This is a small increase, but coupled with other proposed increases, especially water and sewer fees, just adds to the monthly cost of our seniors, most of whom are on a fixed income. 

     For the first six months of this fiscal year, the City received a total of  $571,622 from garbage collection fees.  The City paid Waste Management and other expenses associated with garbage collection a total of $496,301.  The City had $75,321 in revenues above expenses for the first six months of this fiscal year.  Projecting this out through the end of the fiscal year, the City should have revenues of more than $150,000 above expenses for our sanitation fund.

     So, I guess my point is this.  Do we really need to gouge our seniors with this mediocre $2.50 per month increase in garbage fees?  This $2.50 per month is predicted to bring in an additional $36,000 per year to the City coffers.  We are already gaining an estimated $150,000 from garbage fees above our expenses.  I don't think we need to do this at this time, especially with water and sewer rates going up more than most of us would like.

Water Decisions

Monday, May 2, 2011

     The Canton City Council has some very serious decisions to make regarding our water and sewer system.  Recently, the City engaged Keck & Wood Engineers and Raftellis Consultants to provide the City with a rate study.  We were trying to determine, with the professional assistance of these firms, what our water and sewer rates should be in order to meet the obligations of the system; i.e. payment of debt service, proper maintenance and operation, administrative costs and future expansion needs.

     What we learned was really not surprising.  The City historically has not maintained its' systems well and rate increases throughout the years have been inadequate to meet the system demands.  The consultants have recommended an immediate 20% increase in rates with a total of 65% separate rate increases over the next 48 months.  With percentage increases compounding, the overall rate increase is more like 100%.  The rate increases recommended include $5.4 M for the sewer system upgrades and a new $27M water plant.

     It is my opinion that before we increase water rates, we should examine any and all alternatives.  The bottom line is that we must keep our rates generally comparable to other cities and jurisdictions in our general area.  Our citizens should not be paying unreasonably high water and sewer rates.  What can we do?  First what are some of the alternatives?

     It seems to me that the most logical first alternative to investigate is the consolidation or merger with the Cherokee Water and Sewerage Authority.  The City of Canton has approximately 7,000 water customers while the CCWSA has around 70,000.  If the financial numbers permit, it would make sense for the CCWSA to provide water and sewer services to residents of Canton.  Duplication of services with numerous city systems doesn't make economic sense and cannot be very efficient.

     Preliminary discussions with the CCWSA have produced a proposal from the CCWSA.  This proposal is now being considered by the City and a committee of three council members, Rush, Beresford and Goodwin.
The proposal from the Authority is one of a tripartide arrangement among the City, the CCWSA and the Cobb Marietta Water Authority (CCMWA).  Under this proposal, CCMWA would purchase a portion (5.25MGD) of the Citys' interest (11.25MGD) in the Reservoir, paying all debt service and accumulated reservoir costs to the City.  The Cherokee County Water & Sewerage Authority (CCWSA) would receive 6.0MGD of theCity's interest in the Reservoir and hold for the City's future needs.  The CCWSA would take over the City of Canton's Water Plant and Sewer Plant and the City would retain the distribution and collection system.  The City would continue to bill city customers and be responsible for maintenance of distribution and collection lines and pump stations.  This alternative would free up $600K per year in sales tax dollars now paying debt service.

     The next alternative the city should consider is to reduce the projected needs of the City.  While the consultants incuded a new $27M water plant, the City currently is only utilizing approximately 60% of the 5.3MGD permitted capacity of our existing plant.  Our current population could almost double before additional capacity is required.  Could this improvement and it's accompanying rate increase be pushed a little further into the future and avoid a portion of the needed rate increases?  I would hope that all unnecessary expenditures would be eliminated along with this and any alternative considered.

     Another alternative to be considered is the selling of the Reservoir itself.  The Reservoir does not produce any revenue for the City at this time and is unlikely to produce revenue anytime in the near future.  Selling the Reservoir alone is not my preferred direction.  It will be a valuable asset for our city, a $30M investment, and will benefit future generations of Cantonians. The first alternative above preserves a major portion (6MGD) of this investment for our City.

     Lots of important decisions for our Council.  Your input is needed and solicited.  If you have thoughts on this issue, please contact your council members.  We are working hard not to come up with the best of the alternatives, which may be a variation of the above or something entirely different.  Our residents must have good water and sewer service at a reasonable cost.  There is no alternative to that!

Too Many Committees & Too Much Public Input? I don't Think So...

Monday, December 6, 2010

     A recent editorial in the local Woodstock paper, critized the City of Canton for having too many committees and apparently too much public input.  It seems very contradictory for a newspaper to suggest that less citizen involvement is a good thing.  The article indicated that the City of Canton had some 18 committees. Actually, included in this number were authorities and boards over which the City has no operational control.  For instance, the Board of Trustees of the Cherokee County Library System.  The City has one appointment to this Board and no control over the operation of the library system.

   The editorial critized me (Mayor Gene Hobgood) for appointing a citizens advisory committee to study the City of Canton Charter and make recommendations to the Mayor for improvements.  The 15 member group has been working hard to suggest corrections to an out-dated Charter which most of the Council members had indicated needed attention.  In my opinion the Charter should state as clearly as possible the duties and responsibilities of the Mayor, Council and City Manager.  Vague portions of the Charter along with complete contradictions, create conflict among the divisions of our City government.  These should be corrected and provisions of the Charter should be made clear.  I deeply appreciate the work and efforts of the 15 member committee.  I look forward to their recommendations in the next few months.

     One of my major goals for City government upon my election three years ago, was to make it more transparent to the public and to get our City Council involved in the decision making process.  I wanted our City to be what it's citizens wanted it to be; not just dictated to by the City. 

     Normally I don't respond in kind to editorials critical of me or my administration.  However this editorial seemed to be unusual in that it indicated less citizen involvement was better.  The criticism was based on little information.  Three different media outlets are notified well in advance of a government study committee meeting.  Some of the media have attended.  The source of the editorial critical of the committee however has never had a reporter attend the meeting to actually see what it was all about.  Neither did the reporter ever call the Mayor or any one of the fifteen committee members with questions about their activities.  This is simply poor journalism.  I understand the duty of  a journalist to keep the public informed even to pass critical judgment on government activities; but to do so uninformed is unforgivable.  Nevertheless, perhaps I expect too much; accuracy and an article by an thoroughly informed journalist.

    I will continue my efforts to keep the doors open and the lights on for all city activities.  The public has a right to know and a right to see their business conducted.  Sunshine Laws were passed for a reason. While this may seem like a simple thing to do, you would be surprised at the road blocks that get thrown in front of this effort.  This City must continue to get citizen involvement in all important issues affecting this City.  The more input we have through committees and public involvement, the more likely we are to have the kind of City our citizens desire.  The kind of City we have is not the decision of the Mayor or City Council alone, but that of it's citizens.

   Your input is important!

Tax Millage Rate Increase Defeated

Friday, October 22, 2010

    The proposed millage rate increase was defeated at the October 7th called Council meeting.  The vote was unanimous.  The unanimous vote was somewhat unexpected since the Council had voted earlier to consider the increase in millage from 6.8 to 7.3 mills.  Even those proposing the increase, voted to keep the millage at 6.8.  So, after about six weeks delay and perhaps $1,500 in advertising expense, some members of the Council had a change of heart and voted no.  This is thanks to your input and thanks to those spoke at the Council meeting and voiced objection to the increase.  Thank You..!

The Best Way To Increase Your Taxes

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At the Canton City Council meeting on September 16th, the Council voted to hold a 3rd Public Hearing on the proposed Millage increase....Therefore the vote on whether to increase the property tax millage will be held at the next City Council meeting on October 7th......

One of the Council members remarked that he had heard no opposition to the increase...I understand that this member may be leaning toward voting in favor of the increase....The Best Way to get an increase in City taxes is to do nothing.....Don't Call your Council Member... Don't Call your Mayor.... Just be quiet and let the Government make all the decisions for you..... Someone else with speak for you....

Another Council member remarked earlier that we should bite the bullet, increase the millage and build up our reserve....Well I for one don't believe you build a reserve in troubled economic times.... you build a reserve when times are good..... we are in an economic drought...everyone is... We don't pump water out of the Etowah River to fill our Reservoir during a drought... we will do so when there's plenty of rainfall and water in the River....The same is true for building a reserve...

However, during the past years when the times were good, development was rapidly occurring and impact fees from developer was coming into the City coffers at a fast clip, the City was spending like there was no tomorrow!! Never thinking that the economy could ever become what it is today....So instead of building a reserve when the times were good and the money was rolling in, the City was borrowing and spending money like we would neve need a reserve....

But now, that we could use extra money, we are in a drought... but all our neighbors are too....we do not need to build a larger reserve on the backs of our citizens who are suffering just like the city....

So if you want an increase in your City tax millage rate, do nothing.....

Next Canton City Council Meeting: September 16th, 2010 @ 6::00 PM

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Remember the second public hearing for the proposed tax rate increase will be held at the Canton City Hall at 6:00 PM on Thursday, September 16.  Some members of the City Council are proposing an increase from 6.80 to 7.4 mils.  Voice your opinion at the meeting.  After the public hearing the Council will cast their votes for or against the millage increase..  I would like to hear from as many of you as possible regarding this matter, supporters or opponents.  Should the City increase the tax rate simply to build up reserves??  My opposition is well known.  I believe you build a reserve in Good Times not Bad......  It is analogous to filling Canton's new reservoir.... Capture the water when there's plenty of rainfall... Don't try to fill the reservoir during a drought....... I believe we're in an economic drought now......Attend the meeting if you can.
Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Gene Hobgood, Mayor
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Mayor Gene Hobgood