Lake Junaluska water, sewer rates double

By Vicki Hyatt | Oct 11, 2013
Aging infrastructure at Lake Junaluska, including some sewer and water lines that are 100 years old, is behind the rate increase for lake property owners.

It’s official.

Property owners at Lake Junaluska will be paying a base rate of $37.06 a month for water and sewer services, an amount more than double the present base rate.

At the October community council meeting, board members opted for the middle course of action laid out at the previous meeting, one that would address capital needs to some extent, but not to the level that would have been provided as part on an annexation agreement with Waynesville.

At a previous meeting, Buddy Young, the assembly’s public works director, presented information showing that the current $16.95 monthly base rate charge for water and sewer services would need to be raised to $19.90 to keep up with critical needs, increased to $37.06 to follow the recommendations made several years ago in what’s referred to as the Cavanaugh study or raised to $65.44 to generate enough funds to begin tackling a list of priorities identified in a Martin-McGill study.

A major problem with the water lines, some of which are 100 years old, is the amount of water being lost. To date, the water loss is pegged at 36 percent, and during March, the loss jumped to 54 percent. It was this issue that formed the basis of the Cavanaugh study.

The Assembly purchases its water from Waynesville based on the amount used, even that which escapes due to cracks and leaks.

The community council has the power to set the water and sewer rates as long as the proposed fees are in line with the state utility commission guidelines, Young said, noting the state commission is fine with the rate level that was set.

“This will put us one step above the critical repair level,” Young said. “It will give us a chance to start doing some capital improvement projects as opposed to just patching.”

The new water/sewer rates will become effective Nov.1, the same time as the additional $3 a month garbage fee that was approved at a September community council meeting.

Also at its September board meeting, the community council recommended increasing the service assessment fee for property from 33 to 35.25 cents per $100 of value. This recommendation must first be approved by the Assembly's governing board that is scheduled to meet Oct. 17 and 18.

The assessment fee is similar to a property tax levied by a city or county where proceeds are used for needed improvements or safety enhancement in a community. Several property owners at Lake Junaluska challenged the assessment fee issue and the courts ruled the fees could be legally collected.

Unlike property taxes which are billed at the beginning of a fiscal year, Lake Junaluska’s assessment fee is collected at the end of the year.

That means the bills to be sent out this December will be for the services provided in 2013. The new fee levels, if approved by the Assembly’s board, won’t apply until next year, which means property owners won’t receive the higher bill until December 2014.

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