Community members speak out about proposed water rate increases

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Topeka city leaders are considering increasing the cost of water to help pay for infrastructure fixes.

If the rate proposal is approved water utility rates will go up for 5 years in a row starting in 2021. Topeka’s Deputy Utilities Director Braxton Copley broke down the increase.

“That rate increase is about 6.3% per year for those 5 years,” Copley said.

Black & Veatch, the company who did the study behind this proposal, released this chart of how an average household’s bill would be impacted:

But it’s not just your home it will impact. Local businesses will see a bump on their bill too.

Shelby Reutzel, the operations manager at Eagle Auto Wash said his business relies on water, and would be hurt by the increase.

“I don’t like it at all. It could cripple some businesses, I’m sure, if you have water usage as high as ours,” Reutzel said.

Though it would be their last resort, that could impact you too.

“You don’t want to raise the rates for a customer to come in here. That’s always the last thing we want to do. We always want to offer the best service we possibly can for as low as we possibly can,” Reutzel said.

Pastor Carl Frazier at the New Hope and Love Community Church is advocating for the city to find a different solution. He said this is an extra cost his congregation can’t afford.

“Most of them can not work, or they’re on disability, or they’re retired. It’s not like they can go back out and get additional income, nor do they have savings. Then you want to raise rates. That’s not good. It’s not good for us,” Frazier said.

He also said the timing of the discussion couldn’t be worse.

“It’s supposed to be a time of giving, not a time of taking away. They’re taking away people’s limited income,” Frazier said.

The city said the extra money they’d make from the increase is crucial to improving our infrastructure.

“Our break history last year, we were well over 800 breaks. This is a symptom of the condition of our water system. The infrastructure is old and aged. We need to improve it,” Copley said.

Here’s how Topeka’s water rates compare with similar cities both with and without the proposal:

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