Wichita city council approves water rate increase

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Starting next month, Wichitans will begin paying more for water. Aging infrastructure and the cost for water were among issues at the center of a vote Tuesday from the Wichita City Council.

The council unanimously approved a 4.15 percent increase for only 2019. The increase will go into effect in February and will expire in February of 2020.

The jump is a start to what could be more increases in coming years as the city looks for a way to upgrade its facilities. The money from the increase approved Tuesday will be used to fund improvements and operations.

The city will now work to find a longer rate proposal for the coming years. The rate increase approved Tuesday is less than the 4.8-percent recommendation form city staff at the beginning of the city council meeting and far below the eight-percent increase proposed late last year.

Smoothie King Community Impact Director Troy Bruns says the business he helps run couldn't operate without water, so he's happy to hear an increase to the city's water and sewer rates won't have too great an impact on his monthly bills.

The money generated by the increase is meant for a new $524 million water treatment facility. It's a project Wichita City Council member James Clendenin says is a necessity.

"I think it's important that when people turn on their tap and flush their toilets that everything works properly," Clendenin says. "If we don't invest in that infrastructure, than we're going to have problems like we've had in the past."

Opposed to tabling the issue, Clendenin Tuesday pushed for a vote by council members. That vote for the 4.15 percent increase will stay in effect for 12 months

"We'll at least take this next year to continue to analyze what improvements we need to make and adjust accordingly," Clendenin says.