The Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Sept. 7 to re-establish a sewer rate advisory board, despite Fort Oglethorpe’s request to eliminate it.
“We need to continue with the advisory board and have public hearings,” Commissioner Mark Fletcher said. “That gives the citizens some input.”
On Aug. 23, Fort Oglethorpe City Council members unanimously voted to ask commissioners to remove the stipulation requiring a sewer advisory board, which is part of a 1998 agreement between the county and the city that requires a review by the board and two public hearings be held before a sewer rate increase.
County attorney Skip Patty said the defunct advisory board currently has no members, but must consist of two representatives from the county commission, two from the pool of the mayor and city council, one citizen in the city, and one county resident currently using Fort Oglethorpe sewer services.
Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jim Dinley said since the county is no longer in the sewer business, city officials did not want to go through the process of an advisory board.
In early 2003, Catoosa turned over all sewer operations to Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe as part of an intergovernmental agreement.
He said an increase of water and sewer rates is being considered, and regardless of the creation of an advisory board the final decision still lies with the city council.
“Tennessee American (Water Company) goes up on us every year, and the city’s absorbing all those costs,” Din-ley said.
Fort Oglethorpe Public Utilities Director Phil Parker said the current sewer and water rate is $6 for water and $6.30 for sewer for the first 2,000 gallons of water used. After 2,000, the rate is $2 for water and 10 cents more for sewer per additional 1,000 gallons used.
The last city rate increase came in 1998, he said.
Parker said approximately 2,400 city sewer customers are in the county, and they pay a 1.3 percent higher rate than city customers. Fort Oglethorpe does not offer water service for county residents.
“We’re holding our own right this minute, but we need to offset increases thrown at us by Chattanooga (for sewer disposal access) and Tennessee American,” he said.
Councilwoman Jane Moye said she was unsure how the advisory board will affect the city possibly raising rates.
City attorney Ron Goulart said the county can still insist on and participate in an advisory committee because it is part of the 1998 contract, even though the West Chickamauga sewer basin is now the city’s responsibility.
“Why they want to, I have no idea,” he said. “We just wanted to bring the contract up to date. The advisory committee has not been in existence for a number of years.