People in a Berrien County town are considering cutting back on water after learning their water bills could go up more than 50 percent. Benton Harbor city officials say they have no choice because the city is about to take a major hit to their bottom line. They are losing about half of their 5 million dollar revenue.
It is not something you can easily cut back on: water.
"(I pay) probably about 80 dollars a month," says Theameose Patterson
That is why Patterson is worried about what will happen when his water bill shoots above 100 dollars.
"I'm retired. It is a strain on a person that is retired to pay these high water bills," says Patterson.
Patterson and most Benton Harbor water customers are bracing for a 50 percent increase in their water bill. The reason? Benton Charter Township will no longer be buying water from the city. That means the city will about 25 hundred customers and those aren't just residential properties. The majority of those customers are large water users like Wal-Mart, Meijer, the mall, and dozens of fast food restaurants. All of the businesses that sit along M-139 are in Benton Charter Township.
"What we face is a significant drop in our revenue," says assistant City Manager and Public Works Director Darwin Watson.
Watson expects a 40 to 50 percent drop in revenue to the city's $5 million water operation. That is why he says they have to raise prices on their remaining 4,000 customers. But the city says they won't know the true cost until after the separation is complete.
"We won't know where we are for chemical usage, electrical usage, gas usage. We won't know that until they are completely gone and then we will see where to start -- how we will operate our plant," says Watson.
Watson says the city will reevaluate their operations and potentially scale back after the separation is complete. With the expectation of higher water bills, residents will most likely be cutting back as well.
To make matters worse, St. Joseph Charter Township recently gave a two year notice to the city. Which means in the next two years, the city could lose about 1,200 more customers -- another blow to their bottom line.