Rates for city water and sewer may go up

November 14, 2009
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City commissioners will hold a public hearing soon regarding the double-digit rate hikes that have been requested by the water and sewer departments.

The city’s water supply system has asked for an increase of nearly $4.6 million, or 11.8 percent above the current revenue the department generates. The sewage disposal system has asked for a 14.8 percent increase or almost $6.7 million.

“Revenue requirements for both have increased,” said Linda Wagenmaker, a financial analyst with the city.

“For Grand Rapids residents, the charge is 12.9 percent,” she added.

Wagenmaker told commissioners the increases are needed because expenses were up and budget cuts can’t make up the difference. She also said there was less private development last year so new customers were down from previous years, and the rainy summer lowered the use of city water for lawns and gardens.

But 1st Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak said raising rates would be a disincentive to city customers because high costs would encourage them to use even less water, a move that could perpetuate the current problem.

Mayor George Heartwell said the city has encouraged its customers to conserve water, and the lower use is likely a partial result of that campaign.

“Sounds to me like we have to have some more conversations on whether we want people to conserve or not,” said 2nd Ward Commissioner David LaGrand.

First Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski suggested that maybe the city should consider changing the current rate structure to a tiered system, which would have charges go up as water use does to promote conservation.

“We’ll have two more opportunities to talk about this,” said Heartwell.

The public hearing will be held Dec. 1. The commission is scheduled to vote on the rate increases Dec. 15.

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