On Budget-busting fire hydrants and utility districts’ power

The town of Elkton, population about 600, has 42 fire hydrants and pays the local utility district $24.50 per month per hydrant to have them connected to the water system. The Tennessean cites the situation as an example of problems with Tennessee’s utility districts.
Mayor Carolyn Thompson doesn’t think the amount … is fair and is fighting back. She refused to pay the full amount for three months, and the South Giles Utility District threatened to turn off the city’s water.
The dispute highlights an ongoing issue with the more than 180 utility districts across Tennessee. There is often little transparency and accountability for how the districts operate. Water rates and activation fees vary widely from district to district.
The same goes for the fees utilities charge municipalities and others for the use of fire hydrants. Some utilities don’t charge anything. Others pay just a few dollars a month. For some cities, the bill can add up to a huge chunk of the budget.
“I feel that I have a fiscal responsibility to this city to manage the financial situation here to the very best of my ability,” the mayor said.
“We really have cut our budget to the absolute core, and we are still struggling. It is hard on us.”
South Giles Utility District officials say they are simply running a business and need the fee to help offset the cost of the very improvements — such as larger diameter pipes — that make using fire hydrants viable.
…Elkton pays $12,348 a year for its 42 fire hydrants, regardless of how often or how much water is used. That’s nearly as much as the entire yearly $12,650 budget for the volunteer fire department, records show.
By contrast, Pulaski in Giles County pays a flat $1,033 a year for nearly 500 hydrants. The city of Tullahoma in Franklin and Coffee counties pays about $11.20 a month for each of its 1,024 fire hydrants. And Columbia in Maury County is not charged anything for its hydrants. These cities are all are served by separate utility districts.

Leave a Reply