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Thursday  Jun 27, 2019  11:58 PM

Local News

 

Council Approves Water and Sewer Rate Increases

Fri, 05 Apr 2019 08:12:37 CDT

Litchfield water and sewer customers will pay more over the next two years after the city council approved increases for both rates during their meeting Thursday, Apr. 4.

In a 7-1 vote, the council approved a two-year plan that would see sewer rates increase 12 percent for the 2019-20 fiscal year, and another 12 percent for the 2020-21 year. The vote to increase water rates was much closer, but the council approved increasing rates by eight percent both years in a 5-3 decision.

Before voting on the increases, Kerber, Eck and Braeckel representative Levi Suhrenbrock spoke to the council about some of their concerns. He said he believed there was still some confusion about exactly how much the utility rates would increase.

"Do not think your bill will go up 20 percent," he told the council. "It will go up a little less than 10 percent."

Using his own utility bill as an example, Suhrenbrock said that in January, his water bill was $30.08 and his sewer bill was $34.88. After applying the proposed increases to the same bill, he said his water bill would be $32.49 and his sewer bill would be $39.07. The total increase between the two would be 9.43 percent. He again emphasized the importance of increasing the rates Thursday for the sake of the departments' budgets, stating that the sewer department is in danger of being out of money in three years.

According to City Attorney Kit Hantla, the law says that the departments' funds must be self-sustaining and that money from other departments cannot be used to offset costs. Some of the council members asked Suhrenbrock what he would tell water and sewer customers who have expressed displeasure over the proposed increases.

"What would you tell customers who are living paycheck to paycheck?" asked Alderman Woodrow Street. Suhrenbrock responded by saying costs in each department are continuing to increase. He also noted that in four of the last eight years, the council did not approve an increase in rates at all.

"Now you have to pay the piper," he said.

Litchfield is not the only municipality dealing with this issue. According to the KEB representative, Edwardsville will be increasing their water and sewer rates by 90 percent over a three-year period. They will then increase their rates five percent each year beginning after 2022.

Street, Mark Brown, Dave Hollo, Dwayne Gerl, Tim Wright, Marilyn Sisson and Kassidy Paine voted in favor of the sewer rate increase. Ray Kellenberger was the lone vote of dissent. In the vote to increase water rates, Brown, Hollo, Wright, Paine and Street voted yes, and Sisson, Kellenberger and Gerl voted no. The increases will be applied to the budget beginning on May 1.

The next Litchfield City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Apr. 18, at 6:30 p.m.

 

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