AUBURN - A member of the Barrow County Water and Sewerage Authority has asked the board to examine how Auburn charges for its water.
Barry Britt is specifically interested in Auburn's practice of charging water customers outside the city limits more than those inside the city.
Britt's house stands outside the city, sandwiched between two parcels that are inside Auburn. Water lines leave the city, cross 1,200 to 1,500 feet of county, part of which is Britt's yard, then return to the city next door. Still, Britt and other county residents who live within spitting distance of Auburn's city limits pay a higher meter-reading fee and more money for water.
Auburn residents pay a monthly $10 charge for a meter reader and $4.07 for the first 1,000 gallons of water used. Auburn's water customers who do not live inside the city pay a $15 per month meter reading fee and $4.62 for the first 1,000 gallons of water.
"I could see how Auburn could justify the expense if they had to run water lines miles out into the country to service three houses," Britt said. "But the line passes right in front of my house to get from one incorporated area of Auburn to another."
Mayor Harold Money said Auburn cannot charge nonresident water customers city rates based on their proximity to the city's boundaries.
"It doesn't matter, he's in the county and I can't discriminate," Money said. "Someone outside the county should pay the same thing as anybody else, and if he wants the city rates, he should petition to come inside the city."
Britt believes the state law related to service delivery prohibits Auburn from charging nonresidents more.
"I will ask the authority to turn the matter over to the county's engineer to determine if the rates are correctly billed," Britt said.
Auburn's water customers have no choice in their water service providers because state law prohibits duplication of delivery locations.
Money said city residents pay less for water because their tax dollars support the infrastructure.
"City residents helped build the line, and they foot a lot of the bills for maintenance, repairs and upgrades," Money said. "We want to treat our customers right, too."
Auburn buys water from both Gwinnett and Barrow counties. The city pays Gwinnett County $3.47 per 1,000 gallons compared with Barrow County's charge of $1.60 per 1,000 gallons.
"Barrow's rates are lower because Barrow Creek came on-line," said Pat Matthews, city clerk. "They wanted to sell water, and we got a good price."
Although Auburn would like to buy more of Barrow County's inexpensive water, most of Auburn's water is purchased from Gwinnett County.
"It's a matter of tap line area," Money said. "When we first started a long time ago, Barrow didn't have enough water to sell us to meet our needs. That was before Barrow Creek. We are building a new water tank on Sixth Street that will let us tap in in Carl. Then we will buy more water from Barrow."
Auburn has applied for a $2.2 million loan to pay for the new water tank and to run the new water lines.