Sewer increase passes despite debate

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The Bossier City Council approved a $15 increase to the city sewer rate.

The residential sewer service charge as of Jan. 1, 2014 will be $31.65 per month, up 41 percent from the previous $16.65 charge. The new commercial sewer service charge will increase from $42.58 to $80.97 per month.

Despite pleas from the public to reconsider a gradual increase, the council voted five to two in favor of the increase, effective Jan. 1, 2014. No one from the public spoke in favor of the increase.

Bossier City resident Phil Coleman said firmly that he does not support the increase.

“People out here are struggling as it is and the economy is not getting better,” Coleman told the council. “The increase may not be a lot to some, but $15 is killing people when we already pay $65 a month.”

He then recommended that the council consider a gradual increase over an extended period of time. Council vice president Tim Larkin said the increase was fair considering the amount of work that could come from not maintaining the current system.

“The responsible thing to do is act now and prevent the system from failing,” Larkin said. “It is clear to me what I should do. I don’t like it, but it’s clear. We should follow the law and operate the system safely with an increased $15 in expenses.”

District 5 Councilman Tommy Harvey and Council President Jeff Darby voted against the increase. Darby said he understood the financial impact it would have on those with a fixed monthly income.

“I think the city of Bossier has done a great job staying above the curve and being aggressive with repairs,” Darby said. “I can’t be in favor of an increase because of the garbage increase on the bill. That’s hard enough and I believe it will be even more difficult on them.”

Jeff Anderson, director of Public Utilities for Bossier City, said the monthly increase is needed for many reasons, one of which is to build on the $800,000 budget total.

“That sounds like a lot, but it’s not. That’s one major project away from being a zero balance,” Anderson explained. “This increase gives us a proactive approach to addressing problems before we endanger the environment and the public’s safety because of repairs we can’t afford to make.”

While the news didn’t sit well with some members of the audience, District 3 Councilman Don “Bubba” Williams called it a “necessary evil.”

“No one likes the increase, but the breaks are going to happen,” Williams said.

He then asked city officials if they could, within reason, be lenient on bill payment deadlines as people adjust finances to cover the extra cost.

Joe Buffington, Director of Finance for Bossier City, said cutoff services are set at a limited number per week and payment solutions could be something to address in the future.