Baker city officials say water, sewer increase necessary to maintain system

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - Water and sewer bills in Baker could soon go up at least $7 a month. The mayor claims the city is running out of money and cannot survive otherwise.

But residents said they will fight the increase to the bitter end.

Isaac Russell said in the 14 years he has lived in Baker, he never drank the water. Neither do his neighbors.

"My neighbor here buys Kentwood water. The lady down the street buys Kentwood water, and my neighbor here gets water like I do in bottles," Russell said.

Russell uses rain water on his plants. But he does not have a choice when it comes to cooking, cleaning, and bathing. He has to use the city water. He said it comes at a price that goes beyond his average monthly $100 utility bill.

"That (scouring stick) is my favorite indoor tool. You've got to get in the toilet and scrape the ring around the toilet. I do it every other week," Russell said.

He said the city has promised to flush the water lines twice a month, but that does not always happen.

"They may come once a month to flush it and the only way they flush it is if you call them and say look my water is getting browner," Russell said.

Mayor Harold Rideau wants to raise the water rate by an average of $7 a household to maintain the system. He said it will also help plug a hole in the city's budget. But Russell said he and his neighbors are tired of helping the city out of a jam.

Residents claim when the city installed usage meters a couple of years ago they saw a significant rate increase.

"Show me what you're going to do with the money. They don't show what they are going to do with the money but four years from now oh we need some more money," Russell said.

The mayor said, while residents might not see the improvements the money does fund the upkeep to the cooling towers and water treatment. Rideau added because the city is not generating enough revenue to support the maintenance a rate hike is critical.

"It's up to the council. Whatever they decide, I'm good with it. But the next mayor is going to have some serious issues if we don't take care of it now," Rideau warned.

The council is set to vote on the proposed rate hike at its regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday.

The city is holding an informational meeting tonight for residents at 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal building.

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