City undercharging residents on water bill; updated rates take effect in May


For the last six years, City of Cedartown water customers have been undercharged for water service due to an administrative oversight that took place in 2010. Correcting the oversight means that city officials must raise the water billing rates of some of their customers starting in May.

In 2010, under a previous administration and commission, the city manager and chief financial officer proposed an increase of .56 cents for every 750 gallons (100 cubic feet) of water consumed per household. The increase established a base water rate of $2.24 per 750 gallons.

The increase was adopted into local law on Feb. 8, 2010.  However, current city administration discovered last week that the amended rate was never added into the city’s billing system. As a result, city water customers have been undercharged on their monthly bills for the last six years. Legally, the commission must now enact the 2010 base water rate increase. This will affect the water bills of approximately 1,669 customers.

Will I be affected?

If you or your household uses 3,750 gallons (500 cubic feet) or less of water per month, you will not see an increase of your water rate. These customers are typically comprised of senior citizens and singles living in smaller homes or apartments.

If your household consumes more than 3,750 gallons of water per month, your next water bill will show an increase. The typical household in Cedartown uses 5,250 gallons, or 700 cubic feet, of water per month.

What can I expect to see on my June bill?

If you use 3,750 gallons of water or less per month, nothing will change on your billing statement. If you are one of the 1,669 households that use more than that, you can expect an increase. The amount of increase will vary household to household since water bills are also tied directly to your sewer bill. Household sewer rate is determined by multiplying your water rate by 1.5.

An example: If your household consumes the local average of 5,250 gallons of water per month, your usage is calculated at 700 cubic feet. Your water usage, along with your sewer charge, and your garbage pick-up service fee, are added into your monthly bill. So, for an average household, your bill will increase $2.80, raising your bill from $53.20 to $56.00.

Businesses and industries classified as high usage accounts will also see an increase in the amount charged. For example, a company using 190,000 gallons, or 25,200 cubic feet of water per month, can expect to see their bill increase from $1,100 to $1,450.

What caused the oversight in 2010?

“There’s no way to determine that,” explained City Manager Bill Fann. “This took place in 2010 under a different city manager and a different financial officer. They both are no longer here. We can speculate, but there’s no accurate way to pin point it. What we do know for certain is that the amendment was not added into the billing system and that mistake managed to go unnoticed by both the former chief financial officer and the former city manager. We also know that for six years, residents have been undercharged on services and in order to comply with local law, we must put the increase into effect now.”

How did the City find out about the mistake?

The failure to add the 2010 increase in the water billing system was discovered last week. Administrators were assisting with a request made by a commercial water customer when they pulled a copy of the 2010 amendment and realized the numbers were off. After investigating further, the City discovered the discrepancy and determined the increase had never been implemented.

Where does the City’s water come from?

Water is provided to residents through the Big Spring, located on Wissahickon Avenue. The underground limestone spring, the second largest in the Southeast, produces 600 million gallons of clean drinking water to residents and businesses every year.

How can I conserve water and decrease my consumption rate?

There are many things residents can do to conserve water. Running washing machines and dishwashers only when they are full can save up to 1,000 gallons a month. Watering your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler will help minimize evaporation. Shortening your shower by just a minute or two can save up to 150 gallons per month. Turning off the water while you are brushing your teeth can save up to 25 gallons per month.