West Lafayette residents could see utility rate increase this year

Utility rates could be rising for West Lafayette residents. This decision comes as the wastewater treatment facility is facing the effects of Covid-19.

Posted: Feb 3, 2021 7:15 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- West Lafayette residents could see an increase in their utility rate this year. The big question now is by how much?

This payment increase is expected to happen later this year but city council leaders must approve this decision before it can go into effect. Wastewater treatment leaders say an increase is necessary, especially as the facility is facing the effects of Covid-19.

Purdue University makes up almost half, 40% of the wastewater treatment plant's customer base. When Covid-19 caused the university to cancel classes last year, this directly negatively impacted the treatment facility. From last spring semester through the fall semester, fewer utilities were in use and this caused a significant decrease in the wastewater treatment plant's revenue in 2020.

With less money coming in, it has made it harder to fund the projects that were set to start in 2020 and 2021. These projects would improve services for all wastewater treatment customers. Not all the money from customers funds projects, funding can also come from grants and loans but every dollar coming in goes right back into providing customers the service they need.

Dave Henderson, director of the West Lafayette Wastewater Treatment Plant is hopeful now that students are back on campus.
He said an increase in campus activity will hopefully help regulate their revenue. The rate increase amount will be based on how much money they're able to recoup this year, especially with Purdue.

"We're being cautious with our money," said Henderson. "We're looking at how many students are back at Purdue and that impact for us. We're watching this closely. We're hoping that there are more students coming in."

He wants the community to know, despite these challenges, providing customers with quality service is still at the forefront.

"We're making sure that we focus on providing our core services and that doesn't change," said Henderson. "That is our main mission and when everything else has to be put on hold we are providing service for West Lafayette."

He said they estimate the payment increase could be a few dollars and some change. The facility has proposed a plan for the increase to be spread out over a few years if approved.

More people working from home did slightly help offset some of the money lost while Purdue was not in session. Henderson said with less utility use from Purdue, that also helped cut down on chemical emissions last year.

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