Possible water bill increase leaves Lawrence residents concerned

Lawrence officials are looking into a water part. (WISH Photo)

LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — People living in Lawrence could soon pay more for their water. Council will soon vote on a 97% water rate increase.

The proposal was announced to residents in the monthly Lawrence Lift newsletter. People living here say they expected a rate increase, but they had no idea it would be this large.

“That was extremely upsetting; we had no idea that kind of an increase was coming down the pike,” said Dave Onda, Lawrence resident.

The last time people in Lawrence saw water rates increase was 2004. Then in 2008, rates actually went down. The mayor says he’s not sure why that was done by a previous administration, but it put the department in bad shape.

“What should have happened was a gradual increase. … When you go a number of years, it just keeps compounding,” said Mayor Steve Collier.

Now the department needs that money to pay back loans, including a $1.5 million loan from the sewer department and make much-needed upgrades to the water treatment facilities.

The utilities superintendent walked 24-Hour News 8 around one of the treatment facilities on Thursday. He said there are a lot of structural problems that need to be addressed.

“We’ve just been in Band-Aid mode, and the Band-Aid just isn’t cutting it anymore. These things need to be replaced,” said Scott Salsbery.

People living in Lawrence say they understand the problem, but they say the amount of this rate increase proposal is too much.

“The hard ugly truth is that it is going to cost a lot, and it will hurt to pay that extra amount,” said Onda.

Right now the average household pays about $18 a month for water. If council passes the proposal, residents would pay around $36 a month.

“Nobody wants to see an increase in water rates. … We are in a situation where we don’t really have a choice right now,” said Mayor Collier.

There will be a chance for residents to ask questions and voice their concerns during the April 3 common council meeting.

The mayor and utilities director will be on hand at that meeting. A vote is expected by the middle or end of April.

If this proposal is approved, the new rates could go into effect as soon as June 2017.

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