Weaver water well

Weaver will soon deliberate over whether to look for another water well, and how to pay for it. The city's well across from the high school, pictured here, needs a backup. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

WEAVER — Weaver City Council members on Tuesday added a $5 fee to utility bills for water system maintenance and upgrades, but only after putting themselves on the hot seat.

Prior to taking a vote during Tuesday’s regular meeting, council members held a previously announced forum to tell residents of the plan and hear concerns.

Nearly all who spoke in the packed council chambers said they’d support the fee, but wanted assurances the money collected would only be used to make the needed repairs and upgrades to the water system.

Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis started the called meeting Tuesday by telling the attendees that cities “are free to raise or lower water rates as they see fit” but that the city wanted to get input from residents before deciding to add the fee. The council’s vote Tuesday keeps the water rates unchanged, but adds the $5 monthly fee.

The fee will be added to Weaver residents’ utility bills beginning June 10.

Willis and council members at the meeting described an aging water system that’s cost Weaver thousands in repairs and doesn’t meet the needs of the growing community.

Will said the city doesn’t have the money “to make headway” and that the fee is needed to pay for a costly new well and other water system needs.

The city operates three water wells, but combined, they aren’t sufficient to meet the demand and supply water for a potential emergency in the event one or more wells go down, city officials have said. A new well and storage tank could cost around $1.2 million, city officials said Tuesday.

Council members at a called meeting March 7 debated how the city might raise the money. Of the the three plans discussed, residents and council members alike on Tuesday said a flat $5 monthly fee was agreeable.

“It’s not that I don’t trust y’all,” said one resident, speaking to the council, who asked whether the next council would also only use the additional money for the city’s water system.

Willis said the ordinance establishing the fee will be written so that that money could only be used for water system repairs and upgrades. A future council could change course and use the money in other ways, Willis told attendees, “but that next council is going to have to answer to you as well.”

“Just send the bill,” said one woman, who didn’t identify herself, but said she’s lived in Weaver for more than 35 years. “You people do a good job.”

Councilman Jeff Clendenning said the money generated won’t sit idle in an account, but will be spent quickly to locate and install a new water well.

“We’re going to be spending this immediately and get this thing fixed,” Clendenning said.

Speaking after the meeting, Willis said that he believes that the positive response from the community over what could have been a contentious matter was due to the city’s effort to explain the problems and hear residents’ concerns.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.