Vidalia Increasing Water Bill Rates
The price for water in Vidalia will rise from a flat rate of $9 to $11.25 (up to 2,000 gallons) beginning in July as a result of a resolution unanimously approved at the regular Vidalia City Council meeting on Monday, June 13. Though the new base price goes into effect on July 1, citizens will not see a change in their bills until August. According to City Manager Nick Overstreet, it was time for this needed change. “The last time we raised the water bill was in January of 2018, when the base price went from $8 to $9,” he explained. “Before that, I don’t even know when the bill was last raised.”
Overstreet said that according to a study conducted by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the University of continued from page
North Carolina, Vidalia’s water bill is substantially lower than surrounding municipalities, and municipalities of similar size.
Based on this study, Vidalia’s current water bill, which charges a base of $9 for water and $9 for sewer services, is the lowest price of any surrounding city water bill, with the exception of Alma, which charges $8 for each service. Lyons is reported as charging a base of $7.33 for water and $15.47 for sewer services; meanwhile, Mount Vernon’s base prices are $16 for water and $20 for sewage.
When compared to cities of similar size, Vidalia’s water bill continues to be low. The city with the closest reported population to Vidalia’s is Douglas, which has 11,430 citizens while Vidalia serves 10,785 people. Douglas charges $18.19 as a base rate for water, and $23.68 as a base rate for sewage services. Continued Bill Increase
There will be two more increases in the base price for water and sewer services in Vidalia until 2024. The $11.25 base price for each service will remain in effect until July 2023, when the bill rises again to $14 base price per service. The final increase in the base price will rise to $17.75 per service in July 2024.
These base prices include 2,000 gallons of water and sewage. Any additional gallons will add a small additional fee per thousand used. “For example, if I used 3,000 gallons of water, my water bill will cost the $11.25 for the 2,000 gallons, plus an additional $1.75 for the extra 1,000 gallons,” Overstreet explained.
These additional charges range between $1.75 and $3 per 1,000 gallons and increases with the amount of gallons used.
The Council also adapted the amendment of several ordinances to reflect the current practices of the City government. Ordinance 12-32 discusses the deposit for water services. According to the updated legislation, residential customers are only required to have a deposit on one account, as long as all accounts are in good standing. If service is disconnected from a residence and no deposit is on file, the customer must be placed on file. Meanwhile, if this occurs when the deposit is on file, customers must pay an additional deposit each time the service is disconnected. If a customer no longer has service with the City but owes a balance on their account, a deposit amount that is double the normal deposit amount must be paid along with the existing balance prior to utility connection. The same practices are outlined for the commercial customers in this ordinance.
Ordinance 12-33 ensures these disconnections and payments will be noted through filing in the City Clerk’s office and may only change by action of the City Council and Mayor. According to the updated Ordinance 12-35, water bills will be issued and mailed “on or about the 5th of each month.” These bills are to be paid by the 20th of each month or a late fee, totaling 10% of the overdue bill amount, will be added. If the bill remains outstanding by the 25th of each month, water service may be disconnected.
Disconnection will not occur before the 25th, and may even be later due to holidays and weekends. No citizen that has remained in good standing and had no late payments within the last six months will be disconnected. Upon disconnection, citizens must pay bill in full, along with the late fee and penalty fee, to have services re-established.
To avoid losing service, payments may be arranged once every six months, but customers will still be responsible for the late fee.
Under the edited Ordinance 12-45, adjustments may be made to water bills when a leak is present, and payment plans may be entered once a year for unusually high utility costs. Also, this ordinance states that failure to receive a water bill does not relieve the customer from obligation to pay for the services.
Ordinance 12-73 now states that trees, limbs, cuttings, or leaves may not be placed in trashcans serviced by the city. Normal lawn maintenance trimmings must be placed by the street and will be picked up once weekly. The total of these trimmings should not exceed 10 feet in length, 5 feet in width, and 4 feet in height. Trees and shrubs can’t be more than 4 inches in diameter and should be cut in lengths less than 4 feet.
Citizens are responsible for an amount to “defray the cost of respective tree, limbs, cuttings and leaves collection.” This amount corresponds with the rate and schedule set by the Mayor and City Council. City Hall may be contacted for details.
Other ordinance changes specified the fixtures and equipment which the City and citizen are each required to supply, as well as the penalties for tampering or obstructing water equipment, such as parking over or manipulating water meters. These actions may result in towing of vehicles, in which the citizen will be responsible for labor and service charges. These ordinances, numbered 12-36 and 12-46, may be viewed online or through TextMy- Gov.
Ronnie Dixon Memorial Scholarship
ESG Principal Clay Sykes spoke to the Vidalia City Council regarding the issuance of the Ronnie Dixon Memorial Scholarship to recent Vidalia High School Graduate Tate Mc- Daniel. “I think it is always good to reflect on the people that came before us,” Sykes remarked. “I can tell you that when I came to Vidalia [in 1992], there were a number of challenges, from waste water challenges to severe budget challenges, to even disputes between the fire and police departments and City Hall. But, there was a group of people that stepped forward to deal with it all, and Ronnie became the leader of that group.” He continued, “To me, the easy thing to do is step back and not do anything; to not put yourself out there. A friend of mine in my hometown even said he would not ever be on the City Council again because he couldn’t even go to the grocery store without people coming up to him and wanting to tell him how they would suggest he do his job at City Hall. “But the thing that sticks out to me more and more throughout the years is that in all the time that I worked with Ronnie Dixon, I never once saw him lose his cool,” Sykes emphasized. “I never heard him say anything disparaging other people.” He then spoke on the scholarship process, and what he had observed. “The cool thing is there are young people in this community that aspire to be that same level of giving as Ronnie,” he told the Council. “We had a number of applicants for this scholarship, and it was pretty impressive.” Sikes informed the Council that McDaniel has a 3.95 high school grade point average (GPA), with a 4.0 GPA his senior year. McDaniel is a member of the National Honor Society, Honor’s Program, and Football/Soccer Team Captain. “He got me when he suggested that if he was chosen for this scholarship, if he was mayor for a day, what he would do is skydive into Vidalia with a University of Georgia (UGA) parachute, land in Ronnie A. Dixon Memorial Park, and then have a parade to meet people,” Sykes said with a laugh. “It is my pleasure to present this scholarship to such an incredible young man. If he is indicative to the quality of young person that is coming out of Vidalia, Georgia, we will be here for another 100 years.” McDaniel was unable to attend the meeting because of a miscommunication issue, but will be presented with the scholarship by ESG privately in the future.
Vidalia Fire Department Captain Matthew Ragan, Captain Robert Tillman, and Firefighter Kris Owens were recognized for their recent completion of the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Certification.
This certification was completed over two weeks at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, which has hosted Vidalia Fire Department members for certification over the last year. This opportunity comes as a result of the partnership between the Vidalia and Savannah airports, as well as the Vidalia and 165th Airlift Wing Fire Departments. “They can’t just go and get this training right off,” Vidalia Fire Chief Brian Sikes explained. “They have to reach a certain level of training to even be eligible to attend ARFF training. When these guys get down there, they have already put a lot of time into training.”
According to Sikes, Captain Ragan finished top of his class with the highest GPA, and Captain Tillman completed the course with the second highest average.
“It makes me very proud as a fire chief to know the excellence they are bringing to our fire department and the city of Vidalia to make us proud of what they do,” he concluded.
After consulting with the governing authorities of the City of Newnan, the City Council selected Southern Debris Removal in Fairmount, Georgia, to contract for debris monitoring, disaster recovery, and emergency planning services. This contract comes at no cost to the City as long as disaster relief services are not necessary; if these circumstances occur, the city is responsible for labor and service costs. Federal emergency management agency (FEMA) funds may be used if the county is declared a disaster county.
ESG Engineering was unanimously selected for professional services regarding the projects that will be completed with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These services will cost roughly 8% of the total funds, which accounts for $505,000 of the $6 million. Vidalia Fire Department’s ARFF and ladder trucks will now be equipped with a Firecom Digital Intercom system, which will be purchased from Fire Service, Inc. for $8,063.80, and paid for by Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). This system allows firefighters to communicate outside of the trucks with Bluetooth headsets, making work more efficient. Recently purchased Engine 5 also uses these intercoms. Fencing will be put up at Fire Station 2 on Pine Street, H.W. Miller Park on 1st Avenue, and at the Vidalia Aquatics Center on Sweet Onion Drive. Garrett Industries Fence Company will install fencing at Fire Station 2 for $1,225 and at HW Miller Park for $1,495, while Central Fence Company, Inc. installs the Aquatics Center fence for $949. All fencing will be paid for using SPLOST.
An alcohol license was approved for the Independence Day Celebration at Ronnie A. Dixon Memorial Park on July 4th. Packagedto- go beer and wine and gamer room licenses were approved for KBC Group LLC DBA Gas-N-Go at 202 Adams Street, Swayam, LLC DBA Food Mart at 402 McIntosh Street. An on-premise consumption beer and wine license was granted to OD Seafood at 1303 East First Street. Councilmember Cecil Thompson abstained from these votes due to potential conflict of interest.
Counc i lmembers agreed to close Durden Street from Highway 280 East to Highway 280 West from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. on July 4th because of the Independence Day Celebration.
Chief Sikes told the Council that he had successfully certified 93 freshmen in CPR as a part of a graduation requirement for Vidalia High School Students. He also informed the Council that he will be completing a summer safety series through radio public service announcements.
Vidalia Airport Manager Billy Ragan said that the runway resurfacing project has begun at the airport. He also remarked that 8 BlackHawk U.S. Army helicopters had stopped at the airport for fuel on Monday, June 13. Vidalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Alexa Britton told the Council that the area has seen as many visitors so far this year as were seen through the entirety of 2014. Downtown Vidalia will brighten up its windows, as a downtown window art contest occurs from June 20-24.