DEKALB COUNTY, GA (March 22, 2022) -– The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a $1.28 billion investment (2022-2025) into the county’s aging water and sewage system during the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, March 22.
Monies will go towards several Capital Investment Programs ($2.3 bn through 2029) to repair and maximize water and sewage efficiency county-wide. The ratepayer-funded investment will take place over the course of the next nine years in the form of yearly water and sewer bill rate increases. The first, a 6% increase, will go into effect in August 2022.
CEO Michael Thurmond recommended rate increases as a last resort to address long-standing issues during a special Board meeting held Thursday, March 3. Super District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry said those issues and years of neglect have stymied economic growth, new housing opportunities and harmed the county’s natural environment.
By voting in favor of these investments, Terry said the Commissioners are able to support the rebuilding and long-term maintenance of these vital pieces of infrastructure that will serve residents, businesses, schools and institutions for the next 50 years. Prolonging this funding would lead to larger costs down the road.
“In short, water matters, water is life and no longer is the ‘sewer can’ getting kicked down the road. Today we begin to turn a dream of a cleaner, more sustainable DeKalb with opportunity for all, into a reality,” Commissioner Ted Terry said.
These new investments come with assurances from both CEO Thurmond and the Department of Watershed Management that solutions will be established to create a more equitable and sustainable water and sewer system. Terry, who pushed for a system that would avoid overburdening the economically vulnerable, emphasized that while some areas of DeKalb are seeing an economic rebound, many are still struggling.
“We need a more equitable water and sewer system that recognizes historically marginalized communities that have suffered more environmental and economic harm than DeKalb County as a whole,” Terry said.
An intentional focus will be placed on these vulnerable communities and customer billing transparency in the form of the following initiatives:
- Care and Conserve Program – A $5 million investment courtesy of American Rescue Plan funding, passed by the Board of Commissioner, will go towards plumbing and leak line repair, as well as conversation programs for qualified residents. Over the next two years, DeKalb County will partner with The Nehemiah Project, a local community development corporation, to repair leaks for those most susceptible to these problems, saving residents hundreds of dollars on their bills.
- Real-Time Billing – Customers can log into their DeKalb Water and Sewage account and see billing updates and alerts in real-time, allowing all to monitor their water and sewage usage and detect possible leaks. Coming in 2023, a new interface will debut, enhancing this existing service with more accurate data and refined ease of use.
- Maximize Sustainability and Tertiary Revenue – Additional monetary savings can be made by addressing the efficiency in operations of Department of Watershed Management facilities. Terry said many facilities, especially the Scott Candler Water Treatment Plant and Polebridge Wastewater Treatment plants, have abundant acreage to install solar panels, generating clean, renewable energy while providing water bill relief.