Proposed sewer improvements trigger a need for higher utility rates.
The cost of running faucets and flushing toilets in Lawrence homes should increase about 6 percent next year, a utility rate report recommends.
The report, compiled by Black & Veatch of Kansas City, Mo., calls for increasing the city's wastewater rates to finance improvements throughout the city's 260 miles of sewer pipes.
Water rates, however, are adequate and would not increase at all, the study said.
Considering the two services together, monthly utility bills would increase 5.8 percent next year for the average residential customer. For such service, a Lawrence customer would pay $39.62 next year.
The proposed rate increases surely will worry some customers, but the increase would be lower than in recent years, said Roger Coffey, the city's director of utilities. Combined bills have increased 8 percent in each of the past five years.
"The bottom line is: Yes, we do need this," Coffey said. "If you want a good, healthy system and utility, we have to do it. And this is a pretty reasonable way to accomplish it."
Lawrence city commissioners will consider Black & Veatch's $35,000 rate study during a 4:30 p.m. study session today at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
If adopted -- usually in November -- the new rates would go into effect Jan. 1, City Manager Mike Wildgen said.
The money would help finance $54 million in improvements to the city's existing sewer system. Such projects include expanding the current sewer plant, installing new disinfection facilities and building a new $6 million holding basin in southwest Lawrence.
City growth, maintenance needs and new state and federal regulations are the driving forces behind the projects, Wildgen said.
"Clearly, there's more need for improvements on the wastewater side," Wildgen said.
Current water rates should be enough to cover the recommended $8.5 million in improvements to the water distribution system, the study said. Those projects include $1.9 million for a new water main in North Lawrence and $2.22 million for a new elevated water storage tank on Harper Street.