Wichita residents and businesses will see their water and sewer rates go up next year.
City council members on Tuesday approved a 5% increase to help pay for a new water treatment plant.
Households will pay between $2 and $7 more each month, depending on use; commercial customers will pay about $28 more per month. The city says the additional revenue will fund a small portion of a $500 million water treatment facility planned in west Wichita to replace the current 80-year-old plant.
Some residents spoke at the meeting against the decision, saying even a small increase will have an effect on low-income Wichitans.
Council member Brandon Johnson says the increase would have been more if the city weren’t seeking federal and state financing.
“We are now at 5% and I think … that’s better than 12,” he said. Rates are projected to increase by around 5% each year for the next several years, then at progressively lower rates through 2039.
The council also approved a contract with Wichita Water Partners for the second phase of the project. WWP came under public scrutiny earlier this year after it was reported some members of the team had socialized with the mayor during the bidding process.
They were also the only remaining bidders on the multi-million dollar project after another firm, Jacobs Engineering, backed out of consideration.
Johnson says costs would be even higher if the city puts the project up for a bid again.
“It’s too risky to go back out,” he said. “We’ve got a $494 million facility. We don’t know if we’d get that if we go out and rebid, it could be more.”
Council member Bryan Frye, who earlier this year voted against awarding the initial contract to Wichita Water Partners, voted Tuesday to stay with them for the second phase.
“There’s some in our community who would like us to slow down, breathe and start over,” he said. “We’re past that. We’ve delayed, we’ve deferred this project for way too long.”
Construction on the plant is expected to start early next year.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misattributed Bryan Frye's quote to James Clendenin.