Rock Hill residents could face utility increases

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 29, 2014 

Rock Hill City Hall

PAUL OSMUNDSON — Posmundson@heraldonline.com Buy Photo

Rock Hill residents could pay an extra $6 per month in electricity and $1 in stormwater charges on their utility bills this year if the City Council approves some budget recommendations discussed Wednesday.

The budget talk is an annual practice for city officials, intended to help form the next fiscal year’s spending, which begins in July.

The proposed 6 percent electric rate increase – about $80 extra per year for average households – will be needed to cover rising costs of buying power from the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, city officials said. PMPA is expected to up its wholesale rate by 6.7 percent.

Last year, City Council members approved a 6 percent increase – the latest of consistent rate hikes over the past decade. If Rock Hill chooses to increase its electric rates by 6 percent this year, in 2015, customers may see a lesser increase, such as 4 percent, officials said Wednesday.

The proposed residential stormwater fee increase of $1 per month is expected to net the city about $270,000 annually, which would be used exclusively for fixing longstanding drainage problems in Rock Hill neighborhoods. Residents in many parts of the city have complained frequently that Rock Hill’s stormwater drainage infrastructure is sometimes overwhelmed by heavy rains.

City Council members are considering a commercial stormwater rate hike that would increase business’ monthly stormwater fees by between 20 percent and 30 percent, depending on size and type of land uses. For example, a business with nearly 44,000 square feet of hardened surface currently pays about $41 a month in stormwater fees. The proposed change would increase that business’ monthly bill by about $10.

Officials estimate that a tiered commercial rate increase would bring in an extra $420,000 to help Rock Hill tackle major stormwater drainage-related projects. Specifically, the new revenue would allow the city to borrow money for big system improvements.

The council took no votes on spending Wednesday.

City employees also gave a variety of project updates on Wednesday including:

• The council considered changing the size of the city’s recycling collection bins from 20 gallons to 95 gallons. The shift could come on the heels of a new recycled material receiving company building a facility in Rock Hill. Currently, the city trucks the comingled recycling it collects to a facility in Charlotte, where Rock Hill is paid for its recycled material. The new company – which was not named Wednesday – may help the city pay for the larger collection bins. And, officials said, Rock Hill would save money by not transporting materials to Charlotte.

• The police department’s stun guns, which have a five-year life of use expectancy, need to be gradually replaced. The department is looking to develop an online tool that would allow residents to report minor incidents, such as bicycle theft, without clogging 911 lines. Construction on the expansion to the Law Center on Black Street is expected to be finished by April.

• The fire department’s search for land that could one day house two new fire substations. Officials said one substation could be located in Rock Hill’s southern reaches and the other could be near the intersection of Mount Gallant and India Hook roads. The city may look to train more fire personnel in water rescue as activity on the Catawba River grows with more focus put on the Outdoor Center at Riverwalk.

• The city could possibly allocate $75,000 extra to Rock Hill’s road repaving fund. The city currently dedicates around $400,000 to repaving streets.

Road topics – both repairing streets and long-term planning for transportation – often came up during the council’s Wednesday meeting. Much of the conversation centered around what some council members described as frustrations with the state Department of Transportation’s neglect of road maintenance.

While the city’s repairing of roads in Rock Hill – whether they are city-owned or not – is important to quality of life, Mayor Doug Echols said, “I’m not excited about the city letting the state off the hook.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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