Consultant says Kingsport has one of the worst water pricing structures ever | Appalachian Highlands


Kingsport has a water flow problem.

A local government consultancy firm said it was so bad they had never seen anything like it.

“It’s one of the most complex rate structures we’ve seen,” said Delaney Ridgely, a consultant at Raftelis, a consulting firm for local governments and utilities.

Ridgley made his comments during a presentation Monday to Kingsport Mayor and Aldermen’s Council.

During the presentation, the company proposed that the city raise sewer and water rates due to fixed incomes and lower consumption.

Ridgley also proposed that the city completely revamp its water pricing structure and offered a solution that it believed would be more fair and equitable for all existing water customers.

“So, are you going to fix this?” Alderman asked Betsy Cooper during the meeting.

“It’s true,” replied Kingsport assistant manager Ryan McReynolds.

The proposed changes to water rates come after the city has had billing issues for the past few months. City officials said this was due to water meters failing in the customer base and they are being replaced.

But for the future, there might be changes in the structure.

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Ridgley said there are currently minimum charges per meter size and in-town and out-of-town variations for customers.

“Is what you described rare?” asked Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull.

Ridgley said minimum charges were not uncommon, but they were also built into the meter size. She also said it was also rare to have variable rates inside and outside cities.

City officials said the variation in rates historically stemmed from the city’s assumption of small water services throughout the region. The variation in rates between city and non-city dwellers is explained by the fact that it is more complicated to pump water to rural areas.

Ridgley said the new rates would fall under a standard differential rate for all customers. The minimum load of 2,000 gallons per month would also disappear.

However, it would be phased in, with customers getting 1,500 gallons free for the next two years, then switching to a “pure charge” in year three.

The rates would also be simple enough to be posted on the city’s website and advertised.

She said it would be fair to everyone.

“We only charge people for what they use,” she said.

Kingsport Mayor and Aldermen’s Council is set to discuss water and sewer rates on Monday as part of its budget hearings. The BMA will then vote on the budget for the 2022-2023 financial year in June. The fiscal year begins on July 1.

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