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Valparaiso Council approves water, sewer rate hikes

Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Radio

The Valparaiso City Council has unanimously approved sewer and water rate hikes, but city officials aren't ruling out some future discounts.

Water rates will go up 44 percent, while sewer rates will increase 46 percent over the next five years. That means the average residential customer will see their monthly bill increase by six or seven dollars each year, between now and 2028. Those who use Valparaiso utilities but live outside the city limits will now pay a 14.9-percent surcharge, and the summer sprinkling credit will only be available for three months a year, instead of five.

The adjustments are designed to help cover increasing costs, along with planned improvement projects. Council members also agreed to issue up to $70 million in bonds for wastewater upgrades, as part of that effort.

Monday's public hearing on the rate hikes lasted almost 50 minutes, although few residents actually seemed to oppose the increases outright. Most were convinced of the need for improvements and spoke in favor of making upgrades now to ensure future generations have reliable drinking water.

One recurring topic was lowering the minimum monthly bill from 2,200 gallons, something Mayor Jon Costas promised to look into. Duane Davison felt customers shouldn't be penalized for conserving water.

"And so in the future, it would be nice to have some kind of feature whereby you incentivize conservation of water," Davison said.

Tom Davis also felt the city should've used federal American Rescue Plan money to offset the cost of the improvements. "So I just hope that you do use this as a learning experience and think about the projects that only help a few people instead of helping all the citizens," Davis told council members.

City Services Executive Director Steve Poulos simply said the former administration decided to use the ARPA funds elsewhere.

Poulos also addressed concerns about the hardness of the city's water. He said installing equipment to soften it citywide would be expensive, but Valparaiso is looking to add Lake Michigan water to its existing groundwater sources in the future.

"By introducing that type of quality, [it] may soften the water over a period of time," Poulos explained. "It would take time to transition."

Poulos stressed that the city's water is clean and safe to drink, even if it may be hard on water heaters and other appliances.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.