Town leaders say grant to help Williamsport is responsible for rate increase

People living in Williamsport have seen an increase in their utility bills, some households up to as much as 42 percent in the past year.

Posted: Apr. 24, 2019 11:30 PM
Updated: Apr. 24, 2019 11:34 PM

WILLIAMSPORT, Ind. (WLFI) — People living in Williamsport have seen an increase in their utility bills, some households up to as much as 42 percent in the past year.

This means some people are paying up to $700 a month in electric bills alone. High bills in the town isn't a new problem. 

What is new, is a series of recent grants issued to help fix the problem. But as it turns out, town leaders said those grants are the reason behind the rate hike.

Town Council President Mike Hutchison said if Williamsport doesn't update its infrastructure, it won't be long before it starts breaking down.

"Some of the utilities infrastructure has been here many years...50, 60 years and those need to be repaired, you have to pay for those," said Hutchison. 

That's why the town applied for a grant to help, and they got it. But Hutchison said they had to raise rates, in order to meet the federal standard needed to apply for the grants.

"Had we not got the grant the town would still have to repair the utilities and it would have been another 1.5 million that we would have had to increase the rates to pay for," he said. 

"You don't really have a choice in the matter, you either pay it or they shut you off," said one Williamsport resident.

This person didn't want to be named but said he has been impacted by the rate increase.

"We're looking at $500, $700, $900  a month and that's just the electric bill. If you have rent on top of that and car payments and kids to raise in a small town where you're not making a whole lot of money, it's hard," he said.

Hutchison believes it will be worth it in the long run.

"Getting the grants and paying for them over 20 years rather than a couple years is definitely going to stabilize the billing process," he said. 

Others worry time could make things worse.

"Our small little quiet town where everybody knows each other is...well everybody's going to be gone because they can't afford to live here." 

People could see another increase in bills as work on the infrastructure starts. That is set to begin sometime in the next few weeks.

Hutchison said he often hears the town has the highest bills in the state. However he said considering it had to raise rates to be eligible for a grant proves that can't be true.

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