Water in Benton Harbor expected to cost 50-percent more

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- People in Benton Harbor are in for a rude awakening when they open their water bill in the next couple months. The city estimates rates will increase by 50-percent. For years Benton Harbor and Benton Township split the cost for a water plant but that’s all coming to an end.

“I’m disappointed it’s going up that high but I guess that’s the cost of living,” says Anthony Wheeler, a Benton Harbor resident paying his $32 water bill Tuesday morning. 
Wheeler is a professor at Southwestern Michigan College. He has an income and a steady job, but still, a possible 50-percent increase for water is quite a bit. “It will mean less money for the things. (I’ll be) budgeting a little better,” he says. Wheeler says its extra money he’s not too excited to spend.
It is a different story for George Holloway, also paying his bill Tuesday morning. Holloway is behind on payments to the city and could only pay $100 during this trip. He says a 50-percent increase is extra money he just doesn’t have. “I don’t know what the people of Benton Harbor are going to do if everything keeps going up like this,” says Holloway.
According to Benton Harbor Deputy City Manager Darwin Watson, the city has no choice. Benton Township decided to split off from Benton Harbor’s water plant and build their own. When construction is done later this month on the Township's operation, about half of the customers will be paying for Benton Harbor’s operating costs.
Benton Harbor's customers have no choice but to pay the bill. “You (have) got to have water, you (have) got to have a roof over your head, you (have to) have it so what more can you do but pay it,” says Holloway. “We live here we have to pay the bills," says Wheeler. 
In 2008, Benton Township decided to build its own plant over reliability concerns at Benton Harbor’s plant after a state review revealed some issues. Watson says Benton Harbor should know how much an increase will be in late October or early November.

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