Water Authority announces rate reduction

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 1/5/18

ELSANOR, Alabama — With just six employees, the East Central Baldwin County Water, Sewer and Fire Protection Authority covers a lot of ground.

Initially incorporated as the Rosinton Water and …

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Water Authority announces rate reduction

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ELSANOR, Alabama — With just six employees, the East Central Baldwin County Water, Sewer and Fire Protection Authority covers a lot of ground.

Initially incorporated as the Rosinton Water and Fire Protection Authority in 1987 in order to qualify for USDA Rural Development funds to build the system under a Federal program established to provide clean drinking water to people in rural areas, ECBC now boasts over 2,000 services, with approximately 300 miles of trunk lines. Its sole purpose is to provide water to its customers and the volunteer fire departments within its service area.

"ECBC’s service area reaches as far north as I-65,” said Peggy Bankester, who has been with the organization since 1998, "as far south as Elberta and to the Florida line on the east side."

ECBC, which changed to its current name in 2008, was built in three phases, beginning with the construction of the facilities on County Road 87, just off of U.S. 90 in the Elsanor community.

"A minimum of 1,000 customer sign-ups were required for Phase I in order to qualify for Federal funds" said Ryan Frolik, who has been with the organization since 2009, serving as general manager since 2015.

Phase 2 included a second water tower, well and treatment facility on County Road 64 in the Rosinton community, with Phase 3 adding an additional 1,000 services.

“Both systems operate independently of each other,” Frolik said, “but they are connected so that each can serve as a backup to the other in case of an emergency. We have approximately 2,500 services in the ground, with over 1,700 active customers at the present time.”

This public corporation functions as a non-profit water authority and is run by a Board of Directors, with a staff of six employees, including office staff and field/maintenance personnel.

“While the Authority lost some active and potential customers during the economic downturn which started in 2005, it has fully recovered and has operated in the black for the past three years,” Frolik said. “We have reduced our operating costs and increased the efficiency of the system during these three years, and we wanted to pass these savings on to our customers.”

During this time, both water towers have been completely refurbished and repainted. The Authority has also installed a radio-read metering system which allows field operatives to read meters from the highway.

"What used to take six or seven days can now be done in one day," Bankester said. In addition, ECBC has constructed an equipment barn and replaced its old worn-out equipment with new equipment. “We weathered the down turn in the economy and we want all of our current and potential customers to know that we are doing great and we are here for them.”

ECBC is also working with Baldwin EMC to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs, Frolik said.

"Thanks to the growth and increased efficiency of the system," Frolik said," the Authority is announcing a reduction in rates beginning Jan. 1 and a 50 percent reduction in renters' utility deposits from $300 to $150. Water rates will be lowered with the accessibility fee reduced from $20.95 to $19.95 and usage fees reduced from $29 for the first 2,000 gallons to $28. All fees include a 4 percent state utility tax.

“It may not seem like much, but it is something we wanted to do to let our customers know how hard we are working for them and to show our appreciation to them for sticking with us,” Frolik said.

And more big things are on the horizon for the small utility company, including the installation in the near future of the Buc-ee's Travel Center, to be located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and the Baldwin Beach Express.