Residents within unincorporated areas of Walker County will receive a slight reprieve on their city of Huntsville water bills.
Facing backlash from residents of neighboring subdivisions, the Huntsville City Council opted Tuesday to reduce the water rate multiplier for customers who live outside of the city limits.
Last year, council gave approval to a plan that allowed the city to increase its multiplier to 1.75 from 1.25 for water customers that reside outside of the city limits. Some residents of the Timberwilde subdivision say that the 1.75 multiplier has caused their water bills to jump to nearly $300 to $600 per month.
“Many of the residents at Timberwilde are retired and on a fixed income, and this increase has forced hardships on them to where they don’t know how they are going to pay their water bill,” said Larry Stevenson, a resident of the subdivision in west of Huntsville. “For some of us our water bill can be up to three times more than our electric bill in July.”
On Tuesday, the city council used a 6-3 vote to drop the multiplier to 1.5 times the in-city rate, a move that will cost the city approximately $40,000 per year. State laws allow cities to up-charge residents outside of its city limits up to double the in-city water and sewer rates.
“I think the percentage jump was pretty excessive,” Mayor Andy Brauninger said. “What happens to us, is that we look at these rates and don’t react properly to incremental increases as we should. That often results in a large increase.”
City officials noted that their cost from the Trinity River Authority will increase nearly 900% in January. The city is currently paying 3 cents per 1,000 gallons, and will be forced to pay 29.1 cents per 1,000 gallons under the new 50-year contract.