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Water rates to go up
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 Great Bend residents will see a 10 percent water rate increase to cover the increased cost of operations, following action by the Great Bend City Council Monday night. However, officials said the hike only helps the water service level out costs associated with an aging system. 

The water fund is operated as a separate enterprise fund that uses revenues for water fees to pay for operation and capital improvements for the system, City Administrator Howard Partington said. As with any water system that is getting older, there are areas that need attention, such as the water line replacement on 10th Street just east of Main Street.

That improvement alone cost over $400,000. “That has depleted our capital account for water improvements and it needs to be replenished,” Partington said.  

The council has talked about how to begin to rebuild the water capital fund since the city has been dipping into reserves for the program. Partington suggested since the city had the assistant position unfilled and would have it unfilled for the rest of 2015, it could transfer $80,000 into the water capital account.

The need for a water rate increase would be due to the operating costs being higher that revenues, Partington said. The increase would balance that out, but would not begin to rebuild the capital fund.

Coincidentally, the matter came up on a night when a resident presented a jar filled with water from her faucet. The water was a dark, murky yellow color.

She had contacted Councilman Dana Dawson who spoke during the Monday night meeting. “This is unacceptable,” Dawson said.

The woman has had problems for two years and has complained to the Water Department, Dawson said. She was present and was assured the situation would be resolved.

However, the matter did prompt Councilman Joel Jackson to suggest an additional 1 percent water rate increase that would be designated to a special fund to replace bad pipes. A bond issue was also discussed and, in the end, it was decided to stick with the 10 percent and study other options later.