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Water, sewer rates may triple for Polson residents

By Andrea Olson, KECI Reporter, aolson@keci.com
Published On: Jul 02 2014 10:32:16 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 02 2014 10:48:23 PM MDT
POLSON, Mont. -

Some Polson residents are alarmed after reading a letter they got from the city on Fridays, talking about a 300-percent increase.  NBC Montana visited with the city manager and dug through the letter to explain the price hike.

The letter talks about fixing and replacing the aging lagoon system in the city, which is used for filtering and breaking down waste. The money for that project, in part, would be funded by customers.

The city has tried to look into grants and loans.

It’s a significant increase with water and sewer combined; a bill would almost amount to a 300-percent increase.

"I was totally in shock when I got this letter and read it," said retired Polson resident Lynn Earl.

Earl says a 300-percent increase will be tough for many bill payers.

The money would cover most of the near-$19 million price of a new system.  The city is looking for grants for about $1.3 million of the cost.

"The community is supposed to pick up the other $17.6 million," said Earl.

Garth Cox, another Polson resident, waters his garden full of plants around his house and is concerned at the proposed increase.

“Mine will be a 300-percent increase because if it goes from $27 to what they say $93, that's huge," said Cox.

The city says the improvements are necessary because the system doesn't actually meet proper requirements.

"We can't meet the standards of a lagoon system, so we had to go with some sort of a different disinfection system,” said Polson City Manager Mark Shrives.

City officials also say an increase in rates is long overdue. 

"Part of that is the rates have not been raised for, I think, 6 or 7 years roughly, so there hasn't been any raise in rates to try to offset this," said Shrives.

Regardless of the reason behind the increase, residents like Earl are convinced tripling a utility rate will ruin growth in the Polson economy.

"If they wanted to destroy the growth in this town, this is what's going to do it," said Earl.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, July 7, at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chambers. 

If approved, current rates could triple as early as August 1.

Click here to view the letter.