Lakeland continues work on sewer rate changes

bigger-lakeland-logoLakeland’s city board prepped for likely sewer rate changes, routine rezoning amendments and other city business at the Nov. 3 town hall and work session.

The Lakeland mayor and Board of Commissioners will have another town hall meeting at 5 p.m. today, Nov. 10, followed by their monthly business meeting.

After lengthy discussion and several back-and-forth votes at the special-called town hall meeting, the board decided not to retroactively reapply the sewer rate cap that was lifted this summer. (The format of MLGW data, as well as the averaging MLGW used during that period, would make it difficult, time-consuming and possibly costly to the city in terms of manpower to calculate the amount of refunds. It’s also not advised by the city’s legal advisor or the legal team of the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, or MTAS.)

Commissioner Josh Roman announced his intent to bring up this topic again at second reading of this ordinance if a retroactive rate cap becomes practical or to ask for a deferment if more time would make that possible.

The board did approve changing the unit from gallons to ccf for sewer rates and to add a leak provision so that people can get adjustments to their sewer bill for leaks if handled promptly.
The city’s need to expand its sewer pipes and improve an overburdened system – making a rate hike seemingly inevitable – has been a key topic at the past several meetings and a town hall on Oct. 25.

At that town hall gathering, City Manager Jim Atkinson outlined the reasons for the proposed sewer rate hike: The first reason is that the city’s current collection system is at capacity and will limit future growth unless there is expansion. A second reason is that Memphis has given Lakeland a head’s up that it expects Lakeland to buy its collection system used to serve Lakeland’s Stonebridge area.

A third reason is that the sewer fund is not operating with enough of a cushion to fund expansions or major replacement/repair projects. (The sewer infrastructure is funded via an enterprise fund, meaning it has to pay for its own improvements without using the city’s general fund.)

Steve Wyatt, an MTAS utility operations consultant, had advised that the city needs to start adjusting rates now to meet the future needs of the city.

With an eye to expansion, Lakeland is in the design phase of a project that looks at a new interceptor line on the east side of town, extending down near/east of Chambers Chapel. It would take some the city’s existing subdivisions in that direction and probably remove two or three lift stations, if possible. Atkinson estimated it would take three to four years before construction could begin.

The city is also looking at sewer rate winter averaging to lower the financial impact on Lakeland households.

Also at the town hall, the board voted to go with the Shelby County-operated ambulance service for Lakeland.

In other business at the work session, the board discussed the following items that will be on the agenda for the Nov. 10 business meeting:

  • Accepting the dedication of 4.20 acres of park land from Pet Hospitals of Lakeland. The approximate value of the dedication, based on their contract price, is $406,746.46. The city allows the waiver of certain development fees as allowed in exchange for the land dedication, as requested by the developers. (There is one exception; the sewer development fee cannot be waived because it is associated with an enterprise fund.) Estimated development fees based on the preliminary site plan currently total $28,735.25. See the details at
  • Extending the contract with Republic Services for collection and disposal of municipal solid waste.
  • Authorizing the mayor to execute a development contract with Christopher and Cynthia Choate for a development to be known as Choate’s Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing.
  • Authorizing the mayor to execute a contract with Homes by J. Moore LLC. These necessary renovations would greatly improve the value of a city-owned residential structure so the city can maximize its value when it’s sold. It’s estimated that renovations of an estimated $22,451 could increase the structure’s value by $40,000 to $53,000.
  • Supporting early implementation of Skyward Business Suite Software in FY 2017 and entering into a Shared Service Agreement with Lakeland School System for information technology and human resources personnel costs.
  • Considering the funding agreement between the city of Lakeland and the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce for FY2016-2017.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to