Butte officials propose 20% water rate increase

Butte officials propose 20% water rate increase

Source: NBC Montana
Click here to read the article: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/ktvm/butte-officials-propose-20-water-rate-increase/590239802

Justin Ayer

BUTTE, Mont. – Butte residents can soon expect to pay more for water, but it’s a lot less than what officials were originally proposing.

Butte-Silver Bow Public Works officials were planning a 45-percent water rate hike to be implemented over the next two and half years about a month ago. Now a revised plan would raise rates by 20 percent in just two years.

For flat-rate payers the increase would go from $58 a month to just over $70 a month at the start of 2018. The metered rate would jump from $45 a month on average to just under $50 a month.

Public Works officials tells NBC Montana they got a lot of pushback from residents for such steep hikes.

Butte-Silver Bow Public Works Director Dave Schultz says water rates need to increase. There have only been two water rate increases since 1994. As the cost of living went up the water rates didn’t.

He adds the city supports three water plants, many reservoirs, transmission mains and pumping stations that are all costly to run.

“You couple the fact that it’s an expensive utility to run in the first place with the fact that they didn’t raise rates for 17 years. Then they canceled two of the increases that were scheduled. We kind of ended up behind the curve,” said Schultz.

Some Butte residents say raising the water rates will be problematic for the community.

“They let this water system run down for a hundred years where we couldn’t even drink our own water, and then we’re stuck with the responsibility of them not keeping up on it. Now I have to pay for a new system that I shouldn’t have to,” said Jamie Smith, a Butte resident.

With Butte’s newest $30 million water treatment plant at Basin Creek operating costs aren’t cheap. Schultz says it will cost about $607,000 a year to run it.

Although operating costs are on the steep side, some people say Butte is lucky to have a treatment plant like Basin Creek.

“I think we’re very blessed to have a water treatment plant, and I’m sure it’s all going to work out for everyone, and I’m sure those who are making the decisions take all this into consideration,” said William Dornbos, a Butte resident.

Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. there will be a commissioners meeting at Council Chambers with Schultz and the Butte-Silver Bow budget director to discuss the increases.