Jackson County

Pascagoula utility bills going up; homeowners will pay $20 more a month

Brenda Simpkins, Pascagoula councilwoman, explained Tuesday night why the city must increase sewer rates.
Brenda Simpkins, Pascagoula councilwoman, explained Tuesday night why the city must increase sewer rates.

PASCAGOULA -- Sewer rates here are going up, beginning in February.

The City Council said Tuesday night the charge for processing the city's sewage is $1.1 million more this year than last.

What officials decided to do was increase what is called the demand fee on each residential and commercial utility bill. The demand fee is a flat rate, separate from a usage charge on the bill, which is based on the flow from each home or business.

Pasagoula has seen a $1.8 million increase over the past five years in the cost of treating sewage, Councilwoman Brenda Simpkins told the council Tuesday. For the most part, it has absorbed the increases, but this year they must be passed on to customers.

The city can't keep absorbing such increases and stay financially stable, she said.

The increase will be different for residents than businesses.

Ocean Springs resident Matt Campbell explains how a bi-directional meter measures electricity flow in two directions. Campbell and his wife, Lea, are able to sell the excess energy that their solar panels produce to their utility company.

What the customer will see:

-- The home demand fee will go from $7.49 a month to $27.74 in February.

-- The business and commercial demand fee will go from $7.49 a month to $35.

Simpkins said until this week, homes and businesses were charged the same demand rate, plus a per-gallon fee for usage. With the new rate structure, businesses will pay more in the flat fee, Simpkins said, and help ease the burden on homeowners.

The increases will allow the city to generate $2.3 million, of which $1.8 million will cover recent charges from the Jackson County Utility Authority, which treats the city's sewage, and the rest will go to help pay off the water and sewer portion of the city's recent $15 million bond issue.

A press release from the city Wednesday morning said the cost of treating Pascagoula's sewage is $1.8 million more than it was in 2013. That was the last year residents saw higher utility bills, which went up only 5 percent.

But this year, the increase in what JCUA charged, based on what the city used the previous year, was too much to absorb, city officials said. Part of that is a 9 percent increase in rates by JCUA to help pay for a bond issue for county-wide sewer improvements. The rest is increased usage by the city.

"City officials have met with the JCUA to request that they postpone increases, or that they review and reduce other expenditures in order to avoid levying such a large increase on Pascagoula," the release said. "These requests were made to no avail. Pascagoula will be charged a total of $3.7 million by the JCUA in 2016."