BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
WOODS CROSS – Only four residents spoke out at a public hearing on a proposed $9 water rate hike at Tuesday’s council meeting to build a water treatment plant and replace infrastructure.
Two gave the rate increase a thumbs up, another seemed to reluctantly favor it, while the fourth called it, “another solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Council members won’t decide on whether to proceed with the hike until December. However, they voted in April to build the treatment facility and in September, they authorized the sale of $4.5 million in water revenue bonds.
Throughout the process, the city has said they would need to increase water rates. A $5 monthly rate hike was initially discussed to pay for the bonds, but on Tuesday council members discussed adding an additional $4 per month to pay for aging water pipes in several areas of the city.
“We’re being more proactive, without raising rates to an exorbitant amount,” council member Dave Hill said. He explained that by raising the fee an additional $4 per month now, the city won’t be trying to repair a failing water system 10, 15 or 20 years down the line.
“This (construction of a new water treatment facility) should have been done 10 years ago,” longtime Woods Cross resident and environmental scientist Dixie Weeks told the council. “For the cost of two hamburgers, we can have clean water. I think that’s great. It’s better for new babies, nursing mothers and men. I thank you for moving on it,” she said.
Dennis Hopper added his support, saying there’s been all kinds of cases of cancer associated with the compounds found in Woods Cross City’s drinking water.
But resident Randy Farnsworth said that he’s probably in favor of the hike, but in the 17 years he’s lived in the city, he’s seen his water and garbage rates go up quite a bit.
“Nine dollars is not a lot of money, but it’s one more thing on top of everything else,” he said.
Dave Layton, though, adamantly opposed the rate hike and the construction of the treatment facility. He said he believes figures used by the Environmental Protection Agency on the dangers of the compounds are wrong that he has seen no facts concerning the harm caused by the contaminants.
“As far as I can see it’s the city’s responsibility to provide potable water and if I want to pollute or purify it from there, that’s my responsibility,” he said. “I think it’s a boondoggle.”
The treatment plant will remove perchloroethylene (PCE) and other contaminants from the city’s four water wells.
The PCE is present because of contamination from a dry cleaning facility that closed decades ago on the current site of Shopko.
More than 90 percent of the city’s drinking water comes from groundwater wells. The city collects and tests samples from the wells on a regular basis, according to information provided by the city. All four of the wells tested positive for PCE; however, levels of the chemical were within safety requirements, and the city has said the water is still safe to drink.