Water bill spike leaves Lawrence residents outraged

Data pix.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind -- People living in Lawrence are seeing a spike in their utility bills.

Steve Shobe has lived on the north side of Lawrence for 21 years. But he says this is the first time he's seen his bill jump from $50 to $150 dollars.

“I saw a lot of people were saying that their volume increased like triple. My neighbor next door, she mentioned that their increase doubled, so that's when I decided that my issue wasn't isolated,” said Shobe.

He told us he paid the bill to avoid confrontation. But he’s still puzzled how his usage increased by 3,000 gallons, and so are his neighbors.

"I watched the water volume, and I can't see how two people over 65 can use 8,000 gallons of water a month. It's impossible,” said Shobe.

The utility superintendent Scott Salbery says their revenue was flatlined and their infrastructure was shot. This prompted the increase.

“When we took over in 2016, the utility was on the verge of bankruptcy. So we determined early on the a rate increase would have to be passed,” said Salsbery.

Salsbery adds that the rate increase was phased in three parts over four years. The first was in June of 2017, the second in January of 2019 and the third in January of 2020.

Over the last four years, they’ve completed and started multiple projects. But he says with this increase, the base rate and cost per thousand gallons would increase, not usage.

“We have no control over the customer's usage. The usage is what it is. However many times you flush your toilet, open your tap, how much water goes through your meter is on you,” said Salsbery.

Shobe understands the increase, but doesn’t understand why his usage is higher. He says he hasn’t had any plumbing issues or additional guests.

"They mentioned about an increase that was passed in 2017 that would take effect January 1st of this year, and that is not the issue whatsoever. The issue is the volume,” said Shobe.

Salsbery says he believes the problem stems from the holiday season. Customers get two bills a month, one on the 10th and the 25th. The meter is also read on the same day of each month.

"Due to the holidays and the way everything hit and the meter read dates, we ended up with a cycle that had fewer days than normal resulting in the next cycle having more days than normal,” said Salsbery.

He adds that they are looking into customers who may have been affected by the holiday billing cycle. But he doesn’t understand why they are seeing a spike in usage.

“I would just like to see my refund. That's all I want,” said Schobe.

In the meantime, Salsbery is asking residents to reach out if they have a problem.

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