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Guest donaltopablo

Atlanta residents voice fears about rising bills

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This is a tough decision for Atlanta. Something HAS to be done to correct this problem if Atlanta is going to continue to grow as the core of the metro. But I can also understand how people don't want $150 dollar a month sewer bills. I wish the state would have helped. The state doesn't feel it's their problem, but Atlanta's continued success is important to the state.

Sewer hearing turns rowdy

Atlanta residents voice fears about rising bills


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Lynne Moscow has lived in Atlanta for 40 years. Now she is facing the strong possibility that she may have to leave.

Wednesday night, in her 66-year-old hand, she held her August water and sewer bill. She has done the math.

If the Atlanta City Council approves a sewer rate increase in November, her bill will jump to $155 a month. Next year she will pay $1,860 in sewer bills, more than the Fulton County portion of her property tax bill.

"We will not be able to live in the city," Moscow said. "People on fixed incomes will not be able to afford to live in the city. And I've talked to young, middle-income families who feel the same way."

Moscow was among more than 300 concerned Atlantans who met at North Atlanta High School for the first of three public hearings on the city's proposed sewer rate increases.

The meeting was set up to provide residents with the details of the $3 billion plan to improve the city's sewer system and adhere to federal regulations. But city officials spent much of the two-hour meeting fielding questions about the cost of the plan, which would eventually triple their sewer rates.

"I am surprised that people are surprised," said Mayor Shirley Franklin. "I am worried that people have not been listening to their mayor and council members."

City employees manned several information tables at the back for people to ask specific questions after a brief explanatory presentation by Deputy Watershed Commissioner Rob Hunter.

But the meeting started out rough, as people tried to shout down one another, as well as Hunter and City Councilwoman Clair Muller, who initially conducted the meeting.

"This is an extremely painful story that keeps me up at night, but we have no choice but to do this," Muller said later. "The meeting was contentious because nobody wants their rates or taxes to go up."

In what has proven to be her most difficult challenge as mayor, Franklin is proposing the rate increase to help fund the $3 billion sewer project. She has unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government and the state for $1 billion each to help defray the cost.

Fulton County has also rebuffed requests from the city to help. Without outside assistance, Atlantans will end up paying a 190 percent increase in bills over the next five years.

Franklin arrived at the 6 p.m. meeting at 7:21 p.m. and immediately established order.

When a woman tried to shout her down, Franklin threatened to shut down the meeting.

"I came to participate in a forum and have a conversation and I am willing to stay until every question is answered. But we will show each other respect," she said.

Few stood up to speak favorably of the plan.

"We speak for many in the city who want to see our city run efficiently. We are at the point where we want to see value for our dollars," said Paul Lange, who attended the meeting with his wife, Karen. "We are tired of excuses and we want to see proactive change. I believe there are solutions. People just get frustrated when they don't get correct information."

Jack Ravan, commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management, said he understands the emotion that the residents are dealing with. Particularly because of the rate increases.

"If you listen to the questions, they really didn't go to the heart of what we are doing, but rather, how we are going to pay for this," Ravan said. "Everyone was focused on how much it would cost. It just shows us that there is a tremendous amount of pain, and it shows us that having these town hall meetings is the right thing to do."

Although most people who attended the meeting were mad about the proposed rate increases, a few changed their tunes, or at least gained more respect for Franklin.

"I regained confidence in city government tonight thanks to Shirley Franklin," said Barbara Guillaume of Buckhead. "I didn't vote for her, but I will in the future. We are being held hostage by the county, and we need to unite in order to tax those who overburden our system. If we were the only ones using it, we wouldn't have a problem."

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