Fort Wayne Board of Public Works OKs 40% Water Rate Hike

By Scott Sarvay
By Maureen Mespell

January 11, 2012 Updated Jan 11, 2012 at 6:35 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - The city water filtration plant is the place where your water is made clean and safe to drink and use.

But the cost of that water could very well be going up in the not too distant future.

This Wednesday, the Fort Wayne Board of Public Works approved a 40-percent rate hike request for increases that are proposed to take place in 2013 and 2014.

The average city water customer, we're told, would see their monthly bill go up by about $7.00 over that time frame.

A sewer rate hike that kicks off July first would add maybe another $3.00 to your monthly utility bill.

One reason given for pursuit of the first rate hike since 2006 is the condition of aging water mains in need of upgrade.

Another, EPA mandates requiring the city to treat its water to a higher standard, including a $22-million upgrade to the filtration plant to treat a specific microorganism in water that threatens public safety.

Interestingly, part of the budget problems for City Utilities relates to a 15-percent drop in water consumption in recent years, that follows a national trend.

More efficient plumbing, for instance, cuts down on water usage.

City Utilities says even with the rate hike, Fort Wayne water remains one of the best values in the state, but officials recognize that message may not play well with customers.

Mary Jane Slaton with City Utilities says, “We don't enjoy doing those, because we know that there are people who already struggle paying their bills. I think the nice thing, if there is a nice thing about this increase, is people are going to have some time to get used to the idea, and maybe look at their finances and figure out how they can pay this increase.”

The approval by the Board of Works is not final and still needs an okay from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, after getting a thumbs up from Fort Wayne City Council.

Council could vote on the rate hike as early as Valentine's Day.

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