October 22, 2013

OptiLink TV rates to increase

Charles Oliver

— OptiLink customers will pay more for TV soon.

The board of Dalton Utilities unanimously voted Monday to increase monthly rates for its preferred and enhanced TV tiers by $2, or 4.5 percent and 3.6 percent respectively. It increased the monthly rate for its supreme tier by $8, or 9.1 percent. And a $1.60 pole attachment recovery fee will be added to every bill.

President and CEO Don Cope said the increases are driven by the higher fees being charged to OptiLink by content providers.

The new rates will start with the next billing cycle for each customer.

The board also heard the first presentation of a proposed 2014 budget. That budget contains no increases in electrical or natural gas fees. But it would impose the city’s first stormwater utility fees. Residential properties would be charged a flat $3.25 fee a month, while commercial property rates would be based on the amount of impermeable surface on the property.

Cope said the fees are needed to fund the maintenance of the city’s stormwater system. In time, he said, the fees could allow the utility to borrow money to fund needed stormwater capital projects.

The City Council gave the utility responsibility for managing stormwater runoff inside Dalton four years ago, and since that time utility officials have said they needed a dedicated revenue source to fund that work. They currently use revenues from their other business lines to fund those repairs.

Officials said they decided to ask for stormwater fees starting next year because they believe the public is now sufficiently aware that stormwater runoff is a problem that needs to be controlled. They said stormwater runoff can impact water quality and erode property.

The proposed 2014 budget also would change the way the utility charges for water and stormwater. It currently bills for blocks of 10,000 gallons for residential users and 50,000 gallons for commercial users. The budget would drop those blocks to 7,500 and 25,000 gallons respectively. Officials said that most residential users use less than 7,500 gallons, so most users would see no price increase. Residential users who use between 7,500 gallons and 15,000 gallons a month would see their monthly bill for water climb by a little over $1 and their monthly bill for wastewater would grow by a little over $2.

The proposed budget projects $189 million in operating revenue, up from $180 million this year, and $166 million in operating expenses, up from $160 million.