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48-percent Lafayette Water Bill Increases On Verge Of Approval

Jim Hammer

The Lafayette City Council is one step closer to approving a nearly 50-percent water rate increase, but officials say it’ll only make a few dollars’ difference on an average resident’s monthly bill.

After conducting a rate study, the city is moving forward with what officials are calling the Water System Capital Improvements Plan -- which argues the current water charges aren’t enough to cover costs of running and maintaining Lafayette’s wastewater utility.

Among cities with at least 25,000 residents, Lafayette is currently the third-lowest city in Indiana for water rates.

Water Works Superintendent Kerry Smith says the department is barely breaking even and improvements must be made soon.

“Some of our electrical equipment is from the 1960s and 70s,” Smith says. “And we need to make improvements in our distribution system that we have just been reactive, instead of proactive.”

Smith says even if the rate hike is approved, Lafayette will still be among the lowest-charging cities in the state for utilities. He says the last increase was approved 16 years ago.

A 36-percent increase would take effect upon council approval, with an additional 11-percent added on in January of 2018.

Smith says for an average resident, that would mean an increase of about $4 a month on their water bill.

Smith says additional money is needed to adjust to rising operational costs and to replace old equipment.

“Even though the number 48-percent seems like a great, big number for an increase, dollar-wise it’s not,” Smith says. “We’re still going to remain in the lowest quarter of the cities in the state of Indiana for rates.”

The Water System Capital Improvements Plan also includes about $25 million worth of projects to be hashed out over the next five years, including installing a water tower and booster pump station in the southern part of the city. Smith says those projects will be paid by bond sales.

The council will vote on the rate increase ordinance’s second reading at its next meeting Monday. The council passed it unanimously on first reading.

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