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Butte residents discuss potential water rate hikes at public hearing

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BUTTE, Mont. - Butte-Silver Bow County commissioners held a meeting Wednesday at the courthouse to discuss the proposed 20 percent water rate increase over the next two years.

It included a public hearing where residents weighed in with their opinions.

If approved, water rates would increase by 10 percent each year over the next two fiscal years.

That means by fiscal year 2018, it could be a 20 percent increase.

Some residents say the increases are needed to keep clean water in Butte. For others, they say the rates would be too much of a burden on a fixed income.

Commissioners say for those paying a flat water rate, their average monthly water bill could increase from about $58 a month to $70 a month.

For those on the meter, It could increase from $40 dollars to just under $50 by 2018.

Eldon Beall has lived in Butte for 17 years.

He's disabled and said he makes less than $1000 a month.

Beall said getting taxed would be too hard on him financially.

"You can only squeeze so much money out of $720 to $730 dollars a month," Beall said. "Nothing was ever brought up about operational costs."

For Edward Banderob, another longtime Butte resident, rate increases are needed specifically for clean water.

"For years, we have been getting extensions from the DEQ that are requiring us to do something. It even got so bad our sports teams were tattled for dirty water," Banderob said.

Commissioners say the hikes are needed due to the large costs that have developed over the years to Butte's water company.

They say Butte has five different water sources, unlike most areas that have one or two.

County commissioners say after Wednesday's public hearing, they will go back and discuss both sides.

A final decision should be made by mid-October.

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