The Herald Bulletin

January 29, 2014

Editorial: Is water rate increase needed? You decide

The Herald Bulletin

---- — It's generally a good thing when local government units resist raising tax or utility rates for several years. But there is a downside.

When the rates finally have to be raised, the hike can seem overly ... well, taxing.

So it is with the current effort to pump up rates for those who use water supplied by the City of Anderson. Early this month, The Anderson Board of Public Works approved a resolution to increase the rate, which has not been raised in seven years. Anderson City Council will consider the proposal at its Feb. 13 meeting.

The rate would rise by a whopping 47 percent.

The increase doesn't seem quite so bad when you consider it in real dollar amounts. The bill for the average family, which uses about 5,000 gallons a month, would rise about $9 to about $28 per month.

To many people that's not a lot. But to those struggling financially or on a fixed income, it's a significant amount.

Beyond affordability, of course, it's important to consider what the money would be used for and whether it's really needed.

In this case, 31 percent of the increase would be applied to general operating expenses and maintenance costs, while the remainder would be used to finance a $14.3 million bond for infrastructure improvements.

The improvements would include a new water treatment plant to replace the current Lafayette plant. Officials say replacement would be cheaper than upgrading the existing facility. The new plant could be completed and in operation by 2016.

The bond would also finance new mains to improve water pressure and firefighting capacity.

If council approves the measure, the proposed rate increase would go before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, and a protracted review would follow. The earliest the rate hike could take effect would be late this year.

Is the 47 percent fee increase really needed?

Like it or not, infrastructure must be upgraded periodically, and it can be expensive. Better infrastructure can help lure new industry to Anderson, which has an attractive water supply. That was one of the factors that persuaded Nestle to build a production and distribution facility here.

Better water pressure would be good, too, for local families. Still, many would choose to keep their extra $9 per month and sacrifice extra pressure.

What do you think? Let your city council representatives know ahead of the Feb. 13 meeting — or attend the 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall to make your voice heard.

Council meeting A proposed water rate increase will go before the Anderson City Council at its 7 p.m. Feb. 13 meeting in the council chambers at city hall.