New water usage fee hits 3,000 in Baker

Baker residents facing fees due to August 2016 flooding

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - Some residents in the City of Baker are frustrated after noticing their water bill suddenly went up last month. The city tacked on a small fee to make up for the hit their system took during the historic flooding of 2016, but not everyone is buying it.

Isaac Russell says as far as he knew, his water meter had been working just fine, but his bill tells a different story. His utility statements from the City of Baker show zero usage. He says it has been that way since the 2016 flood. He admits he did not pay it much mind until he got his bill this October. His bill jumped from $76 per month to just over $96.

“I have a problem with that,” Russell said.

The city sent a letter to its residents last month explaining when its wells went underwater during the flood, some of the meters stopped working. That made some of them impossible to read. The letter said residential customers who were not billed for water consumption will be charged $4.75 per month for 12 months to make up for it.

“Two years after the fact? It just seems to be phony,” Russell said.

Russell says he was even more confused when he checked with his neighbors and learned a lot of them are not being charged the extra free. “My point is, if the meter reader was not working, why was it just working for some residents?” Russell said.

Mayor Darnell Waites and his staff say their meter readings are done by satellite, so it’s quite common for homes in the same area to have different bills. According to their records, a third of their customers, 3,000 of them, will be impacted by the temporary fee.

“You know, $4.75 might not sound too much for some cities, but I am on a fixed income and they need to fix the problem,” Russell said.

The city says they’re in the process of rehabbing its system to protect it from future floods. That project is expected to be finished in March of 2019.

All residents in Baker are expected to see a $10 to $12 increase in their sewer treatment fees, but those are regulated by East Baton Rouge Parish.

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