Community members ask for water bill assistance program, EWSU plans to increase rates to pay for program

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EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT)– Some customers are calling on the Evansville Water & Sewer Utility to help people who are struggling to pay their water bills, especially with a proposed 30% water rate hike on the horizon. The utility’s executive director says it’s working on a program to help those in need, but it’ll come with another water rate increase.

“I know that the mayor’s slogan is ‘e is for everyone,’ but it has become ‘pass the bill Evansville,'” Reverend William Payne says he’s been talking with several community members struggling to pay their water bills. “We have a situation where people are making a decision to either pay their water bills or buy their medicine.”

Payne and couple other community members took their concerns to the water utility board. Now some activists are calling on EWSU officials to create a program to help those who can’t cover the cost of their water bills. Executive Director Lane Young says this is something officials are looking into, but it will likely be funded by community members.

“We will probably put that as rates which is what a lot of the other cities and places that she’s mentioned,” explained Young.

“So we will have a rate increase so that we can assist someone,” asked Connie Robinson, Water and Sewer Utility member.

“And that’s how most of it gets funded,” replied Young.

“What about the free money coming from the government,” Robinson asked, hoping federal infrastructure funds would cover the program’s costs.

Young says the city might be able to put federal infrastructure funds toward the program to help those in need, but that won’t sustain the program.

“You can do something for a year or two under grant money, but if you’re gonna do it for the next 30, 40 years then you need to have it built into your operational budget,” said Young.

The water rate increase, which would fund this assistance program, would be separate from the proposed 30% water rate increase which will pay for the new water treatment plant. The water treatment plant costs $177 million.

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