Berne to hold public hearing Monday on water rate hike

    A public hearing will be held at 8 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 24, in Berne City Hall to accept community input surrounding a proposed increase in municipal water rates.
    Berne City Council recently gave its first reading to an ordinance that would boost monthly water rates for average users by $8.42 per month. The increase would represent the city's first water rate hike in more than 30 years.
    Clerk-treasurer Gwen Maller last month said residents of the city of Berne have not experienced an increase in water rates since 1980. The last time water utility rates in the city were adjusted was 2000, and on that occasion the rates were reduced, Maller said.
    Steve Carter, a rate consultant with the Plymouth-based H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, told council members in July that the water department is losing approximately $140,000 annually and the department's cash reserves have fallen from $1.5 million just three years ago to around $500,000 today.
    Carter said Berne has the lowest water rates among cities and towns its size in Indiana and that a rate hike was unavoidable to keep the utility financially solvent.
    The consultant recommended an increase that would see monthly water bills for average residential customers go from the current rate of $9.54 to $17.96.
    "This is something none of us like, but there are times you have to do this sort of thing," Mayor Bill McKean said during the September 11 council meeting.