Rapid City residents may see increase in utility bills

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Water is essential to life, but fresh and clean water comes at a price.

"The city of Rapid City is committed to providing safe, reliable and environmentally compliant water and water reclamation services to its citizens and its customers,” said Dan Coon, operations management engineer.

Rapid City’s city council is faced with the decision to remove the old fees residents are currently paying for and replace them with new fees that will have rates increases up to 43 percent over five years.

The ordinance was promoted after a utility rate study showed how much it will cost to maintain the city’s current water supply, as well as funding different capital improvement projects in the area such as renovating the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The funds collected from the inflation will also help build up capital for the reserves.

"The bottom line is because we have very little in the reserves and the other side of that is that because of the capital we have to spend just to keep up with the annual maintenance is very low,” said Alderman Ritchie Nordstrom of Ward 2, “we do not want to go to the general plan to fix our water treatment plant and our wastewater treatment plant."

According to Coon, the average single-family residence currently pays $54.75 for water and waste a month. With the increase, in 2018, the average bill will inflate to $59.51, approximately a $5 increase.

“I want to clarify that what the majority of people receive is a utility bill, not just a water bill. There are three services typically provided, water, sewer and garbage."

Not all council members are for the ordinance, Alderwoman Becky Drury of Ward 1 fears the people of Rapid City cannot afford the increase.

"I would just really like to see the reserves built up over a slower period of time, seven to ten years and I would just like for people to ask their council members to consider it,” said Drury “We have a lot of people living on fixed incomes that are calling me and they simply can't afford it.”

Drury’s seven to ten-year plan will have an increase of six percent, as opposed to the suggested nine percent. However, to some council members, the dollar amount saved does not make sense.

"Going at it for five years puts it at an average of three to five dollars average a month per year,” said Alderman Jason Salamun of ward 3. “Now if we are going to do it let say for seven to eight years that would be like what two dollars and eighty cents to four seventy, we are talking about our cents at that point."

Alderman Salamun is not happy about the increase but he plans to vote for the ordinance to maintain Rapid City’s healthy water supply.

Many of the city officials for the ordinance did stress that if it is approved, there is a utility bill relief program. To be eligible a resident must either be 65 years of age or older, or disabled as defined by the Social Security Act 2. Residents that meet the income guidelines are eligible for the relief program as well.

For more information visit www.rcgov.org or call public works at (605)-394-4165.