FORT SMITH (KFSM)-- If you've opened your Fort Smith water bill lately, you may have noticed it's a bit higher than usual.
That’s because the second increase of three planned for sewer rates went into effect January 1, 2016.
'It's come as a much bigger surprise than the first rate increase. It's also a more substantial rate increase than the first one,” Jennifer Walker, the city financial director, said.
Walker said this increase raised sewer volume rates from $5.30 to $7.10.
“All of the funds that are brought in from that rate increase are dedicated to repaying the bond, which is directly going to capital improvement projects,” Walker said.
Walker said there is $480,000,000 worth of projects planned to improve the sewer infrastructure.
But some residents, like Bob Johnson, said this should have been taken care of years ago.
“It's not a new problem,” Johnson said. “It's been around for some 25 or 30 years, and past boards or past directors have ignored the problem, and they've not brought it up and let the citizens be aware of it.”
Johnson said although he's not greatly impacted by the raise, he knows people who will be.
“They were very surprised to see it happen, and it impacted their lifestyle significantly,” Johnson said. “It changed what they were planning to do for summer vacations because if you face it one month, you're going to face it every month.”
Walker said there is a program called Project Concern that will help people who are having trouble paying their bills.
“It's a big adjustment to people's bills because of that we're trying to mitigate some of that effect for the people who are hit the hardest by it, which are people on fixed income,” Walker said.
You can enroll for Project Concern at the water department by bringing your ID and proof of income.
The next increase will take place January 1, 2017, and will bring sewer volume rates from $7.10 to $8.45.