Baker residents voice concern over proposed rate hikes

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - Dozens of homeowners and water customers turned out for their voices to be heard Tuesday at a special Baker town hall meeting but instead were instructed to voice their concerns and questions on index cards.

"Is it not the duty of the government to ask its citizens for tax increases and not to tax automatically?" one card asked.

"It's a fee necessary to provide services," answered Baker Mayor Harold Rideau.

Rideau explained his plan to increase water rates an estimated $7 a month per household to help keep up with rising costs of maintaining the system. The strategy he says is what the city's consulting group recommends.

"It's a cost but you're either going to do the maintenance or eventually you're going to end up with the whole system failing," added Rideau.

Rideau also pointed out that additional revenue generated from the increase would go to the city's general fund helping with public safety departments and allow for pay raises to the lowest level employees. Some in the crowd say it's unfair to put the burden on residents, many who are on fixed incomes.

"I can understand the upkeep of the system, but also I think they need to be mindful of the fact that there's not enough businesses to generate income and you can't put all of that on the back of the people," said Baker resident Michael Mack.

Kenneth and Linda Wackett have no issue with the increase and say the estimated rate hike would still keep Baker's rates lower than surrounding communities.

"He has to keep the increase to keep the system going," said Linda Wackett. "I understand that."

"Maintenance is one thing just like your car, if you don't keep it maintained it's going to let you down," added Kenneth Wackett.

Rideau says the measure to raise the water rates will be on the agenda at next week's city council meeting.

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