Rising Tap Rates Necessary for Georgia Town

If you want to open a 250-seat restaurant in Woodstock, Ga. plan on paying about $94,000 to get sewer access.

That price, the result of a recent rate increase, has driven away potential tenants, said local land owner Hall Fowler. But Mayor Bill Dewrell and City Manager Tricia Quigley say the increases are necessary and fair.

"Our rates weren't that much more than what it was," Dewrell said. The city charges restaurants tap fees based on a formula that counts the number of seats. Bar stools don't count. A small restaurant--- about 100 seats --- used to pay about $31,000 to get sewer. With the new increases, that restaurant pays about $37,000.

A 250-seat restaurant paid about $78,000 under the old rate structure and would now pay about $94,000.

"It's the cost of doing business," Quigley said. "We're looking at a major [water and sewer] expansion that will cost in the millions." The expansion is estimated to cost about $14 million, Dewrell said.

Fowler, who owns property on Ga. 92 west of I-575, said he has tried to get three people to open restaurants in one of his buildings. But when they found out about the sewer tap price, they declined. Fowler said the Taco Mac on Ga. 92, a 4,500-square-foot restaurant, paid about $15,000 for sewer four years ago.

"I think there's got to be a different formula. Maybe big [water] users pay more as they use it as opposed to hammering them from the front end," he said.

Ron Dobbs owns seven Fazoli's restaurants in the metro area, including one each in Woodstock and Canton. He paid the sewer tap fees on his Woodstock restaurant last year just before the city raised its rates.

Dobbs said the Woodstock fee was the highest of four new restaurants he has opened recently in Norcross, Gainesville, Canton and Woodstock.

"It was a big deal, but it wasn't enough to make me go somewhere else," Dobbs said. A typical fast-food restaurant costs more than $1 million to open.

Dobbs said sewer prices are high everywhere.

"If I pay close to $40,000 for all water and sewer and go out of business in three years, I still have $40,000 worth of tap," he said.

Canton City Council member JoEllen Wilson said the city is raising its sewer tap fees July 1 to help defray expenses and current expansion.

"We have not raised sewer tap fees in a while," Wilson said.

City officials looked at counties of similar size to make sure their fees were comparable. Canton charges sewer rates based on how many seats are in the restaurant. Each seat costs $219 and bar seats cost $109.

As of July 1, the rates will increase to $525 per seat and $131 for bar seats. So a 250-seat restaurant would be charged about $131,000 under the new structure.

Fulton County charges base sewer tap fees based on the size of the meter connection. Charges could range from as low as $1,810 for a 3/4-inch connection to $18,000 for a large 3-inch connection, said Ray Wooten, acting engineering administrator. Many restaurants use a 1 1/2-inch connection, which costs $6,035, he said.


Atlanta Journal Constit. 




China's Largest Saltwater Lake Shrinks


Xinhuanet 2002-06-06 14:41:08

XINING, June 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Qinghai lake, the largest saltwater lake in China, is shrinking with some major tributaries drying up due to reduced water inflows. Located in Qinghai Province on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the lake now covers an area of 4,000 square kilometers, 700 sq km fewer than in 1908.

In the 1960s, 108 freshwater rivers emptied into Qinghai lake. When local farmers turned large tracts of lakeside grassland into farmland, the environment had deteriorated.

Due to arid conditions this year and large amounts of water extracted from the lake to irrigate farmland, the volume of water in the lake has shrunk sharply.

"Nearly 85 percent of the rivers around Qinghai lake have dried up now, including the Buh River, the lake's largest tributary, and some other major ones. The lake's water level has dropped by 12 centimeters a year," said Zhao Yimin, director of the Provincial Aquatic Bureau.

Deje Cering, deputy director of the provincial agricultural department, says the size of Qinghai lake should be maintained by a good environment that consists of grassland, water, fish and birds. Reduction in the volume of water in the lake poses a serious threat to the lives of its fish and birds.

To reverse the adverse situation, the government of Qinghai Province has decided to convert 14,600 ha of farmland to grassland this year. The area will be expanded to 33,300 ha by the end of next year.

Atlanta Journal Constitution

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