The councils for the City of Baldwin and the City of Demorest are in discussion about water. nOn April 6, several members of the Demorest City Council and the city manager showed up at the work session meeting of the Baldwin City Council to bring up the water issue. Demorest Mayor Rick Austin, council members Jerry Harkness and John Popham, and city manager Kristi Shead attended the meeting.
The City of Baldwin operates the water plant that supplies water to both the City of Baldwin and the City of Demorest. Demorest, the largest water provider in Habersham County, has over 20,000 water customers.
Austin said the water plant was a joint venture between the two cities when it was built. But in 1997 the City of Baldwin issued revenue bonds to pay for water plant improvements. Several years ago Baldwin re-financed the bonds in a move to save the city a substantial amount in interest fees.
City attorney David Syfan outlined a number of items that have to be considered when setting both wholesale and retail water rates. Retail rates were set in 2009 and wholesale rates in 2012.
In 2012, after several discussions about a new wholesale water rate, a month-to-month agreement on a sliding scale fee was agreed upon by both cities. The more water used by Demorest the lower the rate they would pay to Baldwin. The agreement also reserved 75 percent of the water plant capacity for Demorest.
Austin presented a check to Baldwin Mayor Jerry Neace on Thursday to pay for the January and February 2017 water. He said in Jan. the rate billed was $2.10 per 1,000 gallons and in Feb. the rate was $2.50 per 1,000 gallons.
Demorest has added a new well, the Garrison Road well, that is supplying 1.2-1.2 million gallons per day and this does affect the amount of water that is purchased from Baldwin.
Neace said he needed to get at least the 2015 audit in hand before a new wholesale water rate could be set.
For more on this story, see this week's issue of the Banks County News.