Barrow Water Authority questions Auburn water rates

Engineer: County will need new water source by 2012

WINDER - Members of Barrow County's Water and Sewerage Authority are sending questions about Auburn's water rates to County Commissioners.

Barry Britt, a water authority member and Auburn resident, asked the authority to examine Auburn's practice of charging water customers outside the city limits more than those inside the city.

But Barrow's Water and Sewerage Authority has no jurisdiction over Auburn's water rates, chairman Stan Corley said in Tuesday's meeting, so they will let County Commissioners decide the dispute.

Britt's house stands outside the city between two parcels that are inside Auburn. Water lines leave the city, cross about 1,500 feet of the county, part of which is in Britt's yard, then return to the city next door. Still, Britt and other county residents who live only yards from Auburn's city limits pay a higher meter-reading fee and more money for water.

"People on one side of the street, in the county, pay more for water than those in the city on the other side of the street," Britt said. "But they are both on the same water line."

In an earlier interview, Auburn Mayor Harold Money stated that city residents paid less for water because their city taxes pay for maintenance and upgrades to the infrastructure.

Corley deemed the subject a moot point for the Water and Sewerage Authority.

"We have no authority or jurisdiction over Auburn's water rates, and I don't even want to have an opinion until I hear their side," Corley said.

Barrow County Commissioners might ultimately settle the question. Authority members voted to ask Commissioners to hear the matter in an upcoming Commission meeting, giving Auburn equal time to present its case.

Money said he would explain Auburn's procedure for calculating water rates to anyone interested.

"That's why we are building the new 750,000-gallon water tank, so we can buy cheap water from Barrow," Money said. "We're going to keep buying some from Gwinnett, though, and keep a line open to them. Gwinnett's been good to us, and we might need them again in the future."

Barrow County Commissioners filed a lawsuit in December against Auburn challenging the city's November annexation of several land islands inside the city.

Barrow County should look for water

Barrow County will need another source of water by 2012, County Engineer Terry Darraugh said.

"Our peak demand this summer was twice what we expected," Darraugh said. "We should look at a consortium of cities and the county to plan our next step."

Options include expanding production at the Upper Oconee Plant from 8 million to 12 million gallons and possibly taking water from the Apalachee River.

"We must look at pond water and surface water that we don't have to treat to use for watering lawns," Corley said.