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Kalamazoo commissioners to take up water rate hike

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Kalamazoo city commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday on another round of water rate hikes.

City leaders say the rate hikes would cost residents an extra $9 to $15 per month over current rates, on average.

And it would come on top of an increase in rates that went into effect in March.

“We recognize the seriousness of these requests,” said James Baker, Kalamazoo’s Director of Public Services. “We recognize that folks are struggling. And so there’s immediate help available today. If folks are struggling today, we have help available.”

The city offers help paying water bills for those who can’t afford it, and it has suspended water shutoffs for those who are behind. City Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman said the assistance is helpful, “but if you’re low income, and your income is not increasing, you’re going to always have to go and ask someone for help, and where’s the dignity in that?” she asked.

Baker said there have been seven water rate increases over the past 10 years, and more are expected as the city attempts to update its system. The city’s planning to spend $300 million over five years to update water mains, replace lead service lines, and improve water treatment.

The city commission meeting begins Monday night at 7 p.m.

This story was informed by Minutes, a project by Michigan Radio.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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