Property owners in Havre will soon see an increase in their water and sewer rates. The Havre City Council unanimously voted Monday to raise rates by an average of $4.30 per month.
The increases are scheduled to go into effect next month.
The water and sewer rate hikes will allow the city to compete for a $500,000 grant from the Treasure State Endowment Program - a state-funded program designed to help local governments finance public infrastructure projects. To be eligible for a TSEP grant, the city must raise its water and sewer rates to meet a target rate set by the state Department of Commerce, Havre public works director Dave Peterson said Monday.
Peterson said the increase will allow the city to replace an aging water line under First Street in 2006, as part of the First Street reconstruction project. It will also help pay for other improvements to the city's water and wastewater treatment plants, he added.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said Monday that the rate increases are vital to the city moving forward with the First Street water line project, which he said can't proceed without a TSEP grant.
"I can honestly say this I've exhausted every means of trying to fund this project but I'm doing what's in the best interest of the city of Havre," Rice said.
The council voted in May to move forward with the process to raise the rates. Before an increase could be implemented, the city was required by law to hold a public hearing and notify all ratepayers by mail before the council could take a final vote.
The City Council held a public hearing Monday at 7 p.m. The community's views on the increase were mixed. While some residents, like those on fixed-incomes, said they didn't want to see a hike in their water and sewer bills, others said infrastructure improvements in Havre are worth paying a little extra.
"I think the trade-off of a couple bucks is not that much," Havre resident Mike Topolosky said Monday.
Peterson said the rates will be increased by about 15 cents per 1,000 gallons of water. On average, the $4.30 increase would apply to a typical Havre household, which uses about 10,000 gallons of water a month and an average of 7,000 gallons during winter months. The sewer bill is based on the average of three months of water use during winter.
Peterson said the city turned in its application for a TSEP grant earlier this summer. The grants are awarded by the state Legislature.