Hallsville Residents Upset over Utilities Increase
HALLSVILLE - An increase of almost fifty percent on some utility bills from September to October upset and caught residents off guard after realizing it was partly due to a DNR cited fine.
The City of Hallsville implemented and passed a city-wide increase in sewer and water rates at an October city council meeting.
Hallsville City Administrator, Joe Smith, said the increase is due to "Everyday operation, repair and replacement debt and reserve funds, and a DNR Violation of Operating Permit."
The DNR issued the violation after finding that the city's contract agreement partner was not recording water levels correctly. This led to an investigation that revealed the partner's pond, which holds city water, had not been discharged and rose several feet above allowed levels.
The Attorney's General Office originally fined the City of Hallsville $80,000 dollars for the violation. The fine was eventually reduced to $25,000 dollars after some negotions.
The city is now required to pay $12,000 dollars of the fine over the next two years. Smith said that the city is on a probation period and will only be required to pay the remaining $13,000 if another violation occurs.
When asked why residents were caught off guard, Smith said the increase was made public several times, "The increase was discussed at at board meetings before and after July as well as City Council meetings." Smith added, "There was a lot of consideration taken into how much the increase would be."
Tammy Lockwood, a resident of Hallsville for 12 years, said that her total sewer and water bill went from $76 dollars in September to $106 dollars in October. Lockwood said she called City Hall after noticing and they told her the increase was "due to a fine the city received from a partner that holds their water supply."
Lockwood and several other Hallsville residents told KOMU 8 that they do not feel it is fair for the increase to be partly due to a city fine.
Smith said, "They are a user of the system and the fine was against our utility system. We have to get funds to pay that fine."
Prior to October, residents paid 43 cents for every 100 gallons of water used after the first 1000. Now the city is charging 50 cents.
Also prior to October, residents paid 24 cents for every 100 sewer gallons used after the first 1000. The city is now also charging 50 cents.
Smith said the increase will be noticeable for larger families.