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Proposed water rate increase would double bill for Lawrence residents

Posted at 9:03 PM, Apr 03, 2017

LAWRENCE, Ind. -- A proposed rate increase could double the amount Lawrence residents are currently paying for their water.

For the average citizen, the monthly bill would jump from about $20 to $40 per month.

“You don’t want to talk about it, but we’re in the position where if we don’t do something quickly, we could have a catastrophic failure,” said Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier.

Mayor Collier said the last rate change residents saw was in 2008, when their bills dropped about 12 percent.

But with an average of 36 water main breaks in the city each year, Mayor Collier said the city needs more funds to keep up with repairs.

“We should be replacing water mains annually on a regular basis,” said Lawrence Utilities Superintendent Scott Salsbery. “We have not been doing that. These plants have been continuing to deteriorate, and we have just basically been in a bandaid mode.

City leaders say 15 percent of the hike would support bond payments for improvements to the city’s water treatment plant.

The remaining 85 percent would go to restoring the city’s fiscal health, which includes paying back $1.5 million borrowed from the sewer utility.

Residents say they’re troubled by the large increase all at once.

“One of the things we’d like to know is why this problem was kicked down the road for 14 years,” said Dave Onda. “Why do we feel the need to do it all at one time?”

Onda said if his rates have to increase, he’d prefer that they go up incrementally over the next few years, instead of 97 percent all at once.

The common council could vote on the rate increase as soon as mid-April.