Enterprise Account is a Way to Effectively Manage, Not Overcharge

November 28, 2011

While I feel certain that most citizens have been keeping up to date with our local government, it is important that I take the time to bring some history and accurate information to the public. The idea of an Enterprise Fund Account is a new concept for Prattville and it requires adequate explanation and understanding.

First, I would like to start with a little history of our Wastewater Department. In 1959, the Doster Road wastewater treatment facility was completed. Prattville outgrew this facility in the late 1970s.

The equipment, at both the Autauga Creek (in operation since 1981) and Pine Creek (in operation since 1980) Treatment Facilities, has been in place, running 24 hours a day for 30 years. In a perfect world, equipment would have been replaced one piece at a time starting about 15 years ago. That has not happened. Thirty years ago, there were 25 Wastewater employees and today, due to a hiring freeze and natural attrition, there are only 24. Currently, we have over 250 miles of sanitary sewer pipes and right-of-ways that are maintained by our Wastewater Department.

Over the last few years, most of the parts and equipment placed in Wastewater’s proposed budget were actually removed before the final submission to City Council for approval, as was also the case in the FY 2010-2011 budget, which was later rescinded.

The age of the system has the city using 30-year-old technology, which is less efficient than current systems. Parts are more expensive and harder to find should we experience a catastrophic failure at one or both plants. Over the past few years, the City has taken out State Revolving Fund Loans to address emergent equipment issues at both plants. I won’t even get started on the age and condition of their fleet of vehicles.

The City of Prattville can no longer run this most vital service as an out-of-sight/out-of-mind program. The fact is that the Wastewater Department does not run on its own. Without proper funding and attention, the facilities have gotten to a state of disrepair and neglect that is alarming. (See our City website article, including photos of the facilities and equipment, dated February 15, 2011: http://www.prattvilleal.gov/news/wastewater-operations-analysis-a-2011-budgeting.html) The age of the system and the condition of the equipment left me, and the City Council, looking for options to bring the department back to health. Outsourcing was briefly discussed, but set aside in favor of having a professional assessment and analysis done for the operations and funding of the department.

We have been very fortunate that the employees, both management and hourly, have been so dedicated to providing us with this service, patching what needed patching, until a solution could be found. Without a proper Wastewater Department, we could not have supported the growth that we have had in Prattville over the past twenty years. Growth opportunities in Prattville center around the provision of vital services. We can attribute much of our growth to local business people, service members and civilians from Maxwell Air Force Base, and to the Chamber of Commerce. However, the fact remains that without necessary services and strong infrastructure, none of this growth would have been possible.

Now, on to the bottom line…It has been stated that it’s more expensive for the citizens of Prattville than the residents of Montgomery to pay for services based on 10,000 gallons of usage each month. This is not accurate. The comparison of wastewater rates between Montgomery and Prattville are as follows:

Montgomery’s base rate for residential service is $31.91, which includes the first 4,000 gallons. They charge an additional $5.79 per 1,000 gallons used up to 50,000 gallons.

$31.91 (4,000 gallons) + $34.74 (6,000 gallons at a rate of $5.79 per 1,000) = $66.65

Under the proposed Enterprise Fund and adjusted rates, Prattville would charge $36.50 for 10,000 gallons used for residential service.

Realistically, the vast majority of us never use close to 10,000 gallons per month. The study, or assessment, has shown the average household in Prattville uses roughly 5,617 gallons each month which would have the City charging between $23.75-$26.30 for sewage for the average customer under the proposed rate plan.

The main purpose of the Enterprise Fund is to achieve accountability within this department. The City’s goal is to self-fund Wastewater with the fees charged for actual services rendered. The account would be held separately so that the fees collected for those services would actually fund everything it takes to manage and operate the Wastewater Department including maintenance, repairs, capital outlay, etc. We will post audits for this account, along with all others, annually on the City website.

By the end of the week, the Enterprise Fund and suggested rates presentation will be on the home page of this website. If anything remains unclear, please do not hesitate to call my office at 334.361.3609 or my cell phone at 334.391.3948.


Bill Gillespie, Jr.