Liberty weighs water rate hike

By Ben Robinson
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — For the past decade, Liberty has had the same water rates. As costs continue to rise and new lines are needed, Liberty City Council is faced with the unpleasant task of raising the rates.

“We are in a desperate situation,” mayor Eric Boughman said at Monday night’s council meeting.

Boughman noted that he himself pays a water bill in Liberty, so he, too, will feel the cost of the increase.

“I don’t want to cause any undue stress on our citizens,” Boughman said. “But we also live in a real world. Sometimes you have to make decisions that may not be the best for us personally, but are best for the town we represent.”

Boughman said looking back the city once decided put part of the water fee aside to save up for a new trash truck. But that never happened, as the money was put into the water account.

“I want us to start being responsible with the city’s money,” Boughman said. “We’ve got a storm brewing under our feet.”

Boughman said that right now Liberty’s minimum water rate for the first 2,000 gallons is $10.45, a number he said was by far the lowest in the area, with the highest rate being $15.67. Boughman proposed that the city increase from $10.45 for the first 2,000 gallons to $14.49.

While the city’s water rate would still not be the highest, the new rate would allow Liberty to put back some money so it can qualify for needed federal grants, which often require matching funds.

Boughman also proposed that the city increase its fees for trash pickup from $6 to $8.

Boughman proposed that the council discuss the rate increases and vote on them at a special called meeting Aug. 25, and then have a second reading at the Sept. 8 city council meeting. If all goes as planned, the new rates would go into effect Oct. 1.

Councilman Brian Petersen applauded Boughman for stepping forward to address the problem.

“We have to act or we’re going to be facing consequences that are irreparable,” Petersen said. “As much as I dislike it, as a responsible council member, I don’t see any choice.”

Councilman Chuck Powell said he did not see where the city had any choice, saying it’s been a known fact the city has deteriorated.

Councilman Josh Harrison said the situation “worries me, because I don’t have another solution.”

Petersen pointed out that even with the increase, Liberty will still have the fourth-lowest water rates in the county.

“I hate to raise anything,” councilman Lavant Padgett said. “But I like turning the water on and it coming out.”

Padgett warned that with the city’s water lines aging, costs for repairs are likely to increase.

“There’s nothing else we can do,” Padgett said.