Council explains sewer rate hike

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Bossier City residents could be paying a higher water bill come January.

The Bossier City Council cast its final vote next week on a $15 increase to the city sewer rate.

The city is looking at raising the rate in a proactive move to fund infrastructure improvements. The consensus among the council is that the dilapidated portions of the wastewater system will cost more to fix at a later date.

Jeff Anderson, Director of Public Utilities, said the city hasn’t established a recurring revenue source for the sewer system to fund the work needed in Bossier.

“We’ve been replacing lines and systems without a consistent revenue source, but now is the time to set up a fund for those future upgrades,” Anderson said.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing to raise rates. These are difficult things to do,” said At Large Councilman Tim Larkin. “I came to the conclusion after looking at what we’re planning to do, that this is the responsible thing to do. But it has no reward – I’ve never had a call where someone said, ‘Thanks for raising my sewer rates.'”

“This is something that is being done to be proactive. I’ve seen what can happen when you’re not proactive and that’s not a place we want to be in,” added Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker.

This rate would come on the heels of recent increases. Bossier City residents saw an $8 across the board increase in 2010 and will see an additional $8 on their bill beginning Dec. 2 for for solid waste collections.

District 5 Councilman Tommy Harvey said he couldn’t vote for the increase based upon concerns expressed to him by constituents.

“With people I’ve spoken to, only one person seemed in favor of it. As rates will increase on trash, and new meters are causing water rates to increase, I feel it is the wrong time to increase sewer fees,” said Harvey.

At Large Councilman David Montgomery was more bullish about the plan, asking what the alternative is to increasing the rate.

“We’ve done the responsible thing by hiring a firm that advised us how to avoid future costs and EPA sanctions (due to dilapidated infrastructure),” said Montgomery.

The council met with Dave Naumann from Burns & McDonnell and Justin Haydell from the Manchac Consulting Group last week to hear recommendations on a proposed plan to fund the city sewage infrastructure. Based on findings from a two part study, it was recommended that the council approve a $15 per month increase.

Montgomery went on to note that failing to make the increase would cost the city millions that would then cause a deficit in its annual budget.

“By subsidizing these upgrades, we risk losing the $3 million from sales tax that we utilize for our fund budget. In 2008, when we had a deficit, we had to cut public safety. We know what we have to do. It’s your responsibility as a councilman to protect the integrity of the budget,” Montgomery added.

The proposed rate hike would increase the residential sewer service charge from $16.65 to $31.65 per month, and the commercial sewer service charge from $42.58 to $80.97 per month.

However, District 1 Councilman Scott Irwin warned that waiting could see the fee increase total $18 or $20.

“If we wait, we could see an increase in interest rates, which would increase costs and the rate. By doing it now, we get more bang for our buck,” Irwin said.

District 3 Councilman Don “Bubba” Williams said he was neutral and voted for the increase in Tuesday’s meeting so he could get more information.

“I still have questions I want answered. I’m not in favor of or against it, I’m voting to carry it forward to the next vote,” he said.

The council will make its final vote in two weeks, at its Dec. 3 meeting, 3 p.m. at the Bossier Council Chambers in the municipal complex off Benton Road.