Homes and businesses that are customers of the Thomson’s gas department should prepare for their gas rate to increase 2.75 percent in January, increasing the service rate from $13 per month to $15.50 per month.
The Thomson City Council approved the increases Nov. 14 after a study of the gas system by the Municipal Gas Authority. Over the last two months, the City Council has reviewed the current gas rate structure as part of the 2020 budget preparation and approval process.
According to the council, the objective of the study was to help develop a financial plan that would allow the city to continue to operate a safe and reliable gas system that adds significant value to the community.
According to City Administrator Frank Etheridge, in looking at the projected gas revenues for 2020, two items of concern were identified.
First, the loss of Georgia- Pacific in Thomson represents a $400,000 loss in gas sales, Etheridge said. Secondly, the gas usage charges are linked to the wholesale cost the city pays for gas and the rate is decreasing slightly in 2020. “So there will be an additional $1,000,000 loss in sales revenues from our existing customer base,” he said.
Georgia-Pacific burned May 29 with more than 80 percent of the particleboard plant gone. The headquarters announced June 4 to permanently close the fire-damaged facility, displacing 100 employees.
In light of the loss, the City Council made the difficult decision to adjust the gas rates for gas customers at the Nov. 14 meeting, Etheridge said. The fee increase also will help fund capital expenditures of $1.242 million over the next five years, the study document notes.
The council increased the monthly service fee residential and commercial customers pay to have gas. The rate increases from $13 per month to $15.50 per month in 2020 for residential customers. “The impact on the average residential customer will be about $35 per year. This reflects a 2.75 percent rate increase for 2020,” Etheridge said. There will be slight increases in 2021, 2022 and 2023 for residential and commercial customers.
The city council also approved an annual rate increase of 2.5 percent in 2021 and in 2022, and then a 2.25 percent increase in 2023. At that time, the City Council will reevaluate the gas rates and the cost of providing the gas service to customers.
In addition, the council also authorized increasing the gas reconnecting fee for customers desiring to have their gas turned off for the summer and wanting to reconnect when temps begin dropping, the cost will increase from $40 to $90 to prevent warm weather cut-offs or disconnects.
“It is necessary if we are going to stay in business,” Mayor Kenneth Usry said before the council authorized the increases.
Another gas related matter also garnered discussion and action. Blocked gas meters at homes and businesses are challenging meter readers’ ability to read them. The council held its first reading of amended Ordinance #481, which prohibits obstruction to any gas meter and warns owners that failure to remove obstacles will result in a fine or meter removal. The council will have the second reading at its Dec. 12 meeting and then the ordinance will become effective.
In its final action on Nov. 14, the council approved a resolution in support of a State Veterans Cemetery in Augusta. According to the proposal, more than 60,000 military veterans live in the Augusta area and they and their families will have to decide where the veteran, their spouses and qualified dependents will be buried. The nearest veteran cemeteries are Fort Jackson, 70 miles away, Milledgeville, 90 miles away, and Glennville, 120 miles away. The locations require family members to spend a large amount of time traveling to and from these gravesites of their loved ones.
Local veterans have expressed the desire for Georgia to establish a veterans cemetery in Augusta-Richmond County to serve the veteran population in East Central Georgia and the government of Augusta-Richmond County has pledged to support whatever is necessary to host a state veterans cemetery.
In the resolution, the City of Thomson “calls upon the Georgia Department of Veterans Services to pursue an application to the Veterans Administration for a construction grant, and that the governor and members of the Georgia General Assembly support such a move.”