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FUD announces rate hike

First Utility District has instated an 8 percent rate increase, which went into effect on all bills due after March 1.

The rate hike will affect both water and sewer bills.

“The basic reasons for the rate increase would be improvements to our water and wastewater systems,” Wayne Watson, FUD assistant manager, said.

“There are lots of improvements we’re having to make,” he added.

Watson said FUD’s increase will raise the average residential water bill (for 7,000 gallons) to about $22.41. The average residential wastewater bill (for 7,000 gallons) will be about $33.75.

First Utility’s improvements include expansions to its water and wastewater treatment plants, rehabilitation of sewer lines and replacement of meters.

“We just completed an expansion of the water treatment plant and of the wastewater treatment plant. Each of those projects was in the neighborhood of $20 million,” Watson said.

FUD is nearing completion of its meter change-out project.

“We’re changing every residential customer’s meter to a radio-read meter. We won’t be getting out of the truck anymore … it’s a drive-by system,” Watson said.

There are several advantages to a radio-read system, he added, including safety and accuracy.

“That will eliminate meter reading errors. The best a guy can do, a person can do, manually reading a meter is about a 2 percent error rate.

“These electronically read meters will eliminate all those errors,” he added.

FUD also no longer will have its meter-readers stopping in the road; a receiver and transmitter in the vehicle will automatically read the new electronic meters.

“We won’t have a person stopping in the road anymore … there will be increased safety for us, there will be increased safety for everyone on the road,” Watson said.

“We’re trying to improve customer service with the meters,” he added.

First Utility has changed out about 26,000 meters and has about 4,000 left to change. Watson estimated the entire project will be completed in around six months.

The change-out has cost FUD about $3 million.

First Utility has been “rehabilitating” sewer lines in the area for more than a year. That project involves lining existing clay or concrete pipes with a plastic polymer that plugs leaks, and prevents overflows and further damage to the lines.

FUD most recently has worked in Village Green subdivision, re-lining about 8 miles of pipe.

“That’s about a $2 million expense,” Watson said.

First Utility’s last rate change, according to Watson, was Aug. 1, 2008.

According to an East Tennessee Development District report, First Utility’s increased water and wastewater bills are lower than both KUB’s and LCUB’s.

LCUB’s average water bill (for about 7,000 gallons) is $37.70; KUB’s is $24.38. The average wastewater bill for LCUB customers is $55.29; for KUB customers it is $78.65.


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