JWC hikes water rates 26%

JENKINSVILLE – After voting 5-1 on Feb. 6 to pass a water rate increase without specifying the amount of the increase or when it would go into effect, Jenkinsville Water Company’s board of directors enclosed a note in water bills last week announcing a rate hike of 26 percent ($23 to $29) for residential customers on the first 2,000 gallons. The rate increase for commercial customers is set at 41 percent ($27 to $38) on the first 2,000 gallons and 67 percent (from $6 to 10) on each additional 1,000 gallons. Residential customers will continue to pay $5 for each additional $1,000 gallons used, and all customers will continue to pay a $1 monthly impact fee.

While the new rates have not been discussed or voted on during a public meeting, Board President Gregery Ginyard told The Voice on Tuesday that the board discussed it in executive session at the March 6 meeting and voted for the increase following executive session during that meeting. However, the agenda listed only “contractural, personnel and legal matters” for the executive session, and a recording of the meeting reveals no vote was taken by the board on a rate increase following executive session and no mention of the new rates was made during the meeting.

“I don’t know when the vote was taken,” board member Preston Peach told The Voice Tuesday. “I was not at the meeting in February.”

While Peach did attend the March 6 meeting, he was vague on Tuesday about how he learned about the amount of the rate increase or when and by whom it was decided.

The note in customers’ bills said the rate hike is scheduled to go into effect next month due to “the need to offset increased operating costs, meet the growing demand for water and to make investments needed to increase production.” The note did not specify any particular increases in operating costs or water demand that had been experienced by the company.

The rate hike has evolved mysteriously following questions from customers during public comment at the annual meeting about whether the company is in trouble financially.

In discussing the rate hike but without any numbers during the February meeting, Ginyard said the company was passing on Mid-County’s rate increases. Board member the Rev. Leon Thompson voted against the rate hike.

“Mid-County has passed it, but we just didn’t have the paperwork in front of us to actually call out a certain number,” Ginyard said after the meeting. “We’re going to look at the number from Mid-County and it will come out. So we voted to actually look at what the numbers are with Mid-County and stuff to try to keep pace of them.”

However, the board did not vote to “look at what the numbers are.” The board voted “that the rate increase be accepted as discussed,” Ginyard said, reading out the motion before the Feb. 6 vote.

After the meeting, Ginyard said the rate increase had been discussed at previous meetings. But Mid-County Water has not passed along a rate increase to the Jenkinsville Water Company since July of 2016. That increase – of just 1.4 percent – reflects the increase passed to Mid-County from Winnsboro when Winnsboro’s 2016-2017 budget was adopted.