Action Report: Why are Gautier residents seeing a 30 percent increase on water bills?

Action Report: Why are Gautier residents seeing a 30 percent increase on water bills?

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Some Gautier residents haven't been happy with their drinking water quality. Though the brown water issue is being addressed, now there's a different issue concerning residents.

Sherry Luke says she was shocked when she received her latest water bill.

"This month it jumped; $168 to $244, huge increase," said Luke. "It didn't give anybody any warning, just sent us the bill."

Luke says her family is living on a fixed income and the new water bill increase doesn't help.

"We already don't water the yard, plants or anything," said Luke.

Gautier City Manager Samantha Abell says the 30 percent water bill increase went into affect Oct. 1 after the city council held a public hearing for the adoption of a new budget.

"We received notice from the Jackson County Utility Authority that our cost to treat our wastewater would be going up a little more than half a million dollars," said Abell.

Abell added that the city of Gautier expected a very modest increase because the city has a new water plant on line they were able to purchase by financing old bonds; at no cost to residents.

Abell says the Jackson County Utility Authority has a number of projects slated to improve the wastewater facilities throughout Jackson County.

"What the mayor and council were told is that the $30 million was needed, but that there was $2.5 million worth of improvements that were critical to the system, "said Abell.

Projects throughout Jackson County that Abell says have not yet been spelled out

"Our cities are a little perplexed, "stated Abell.  "We don't doubt that improvements are needed through the wastewater system,but we are still waiting to find out exactly what improvements are going to occur, where within the system."

As far as the water bills going up in Gautier, Executive Director for the Jackson County Utility Authority Tommy Fairfield says all Jackson County residents will be paying a little more.

In 2014, residents were paying $2.69 per 1,000 gallons. Currently, Fairfield says rates increased 25 cents to $2.94 per 1,000 gallons.

"When we adopted the budget this year, we needed to increase the amount of money we're putting in infrastructure, in particular, in the city of Gautier, "said Fairfield. "The air-ration system on the treatment plants are in the process of being upgraded for the first time since the plant was built."

Abell says the Utility Authority was established after Hurricane Katrina to consolidate smaller systems for the overall efficiency and affordability for the citizens of Jackson County.

"We hope that our legislators would look at the issue to make sure there's some transparency and so our citizens can feel sure that there is someone looking out for the best interest for our rate payers," added Abell.

Leaders say Gautier city officials have been told  by the Jackson County Utility Authority to wait on the announcement of the projects and that they have hired an engineering company to find out what $30 million worth of improvements can afford them.

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