Water Bills Draw Controversy

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By Sam Jones
By Benjy Jeffords

PERRY COUNTY— Residents in Cutler are outraged by skyrocketing water rates and demand changes.

People say their water bills have more than doubled in recent months, but leaders in the small Perry County town say they have no choice. The water system needs a full upgrade to meet EPA standards, and the work carries a big price tag.

This issue is dividing Cutler right now. Residents don't understand why water bills are so high, but city leaders say the extra cost just can't be avoided.

Residents took their pleas for help to Tuesday's village board meeting. One of them, Dacia Falletta, has seen her bill increase by more than 100%.

“$200 could buy my kids a lot of food instead of paying for water, and I still have to buy bottled water for them to drink,” Falletta explained.

She filled a backyard pool back in May, but says her bill continued to jump the next month for no reason. Dacia's worried to even water her garden.

“The quality of the water is not good, but we still need water. We have to bathe, we have to do laundry, but my kids also need to be fed,” she urged.

The quality of water in town has been a point of contention for years.

Mayor Ricky Hepp hopes adapting to EPA standards will help that.

“Our rates were not adjusted for over 20 years so all we're doing is catching up right now to get back to even,” Hepp admitted.

He says the EPA turned Cutler down for more grant money to help with the $500,000 project, since a mine was operating in town. It isn't anymore, and the village is stuck footing the bill.

“The EPA regulates what you have to charge. You have to show to the EPA that you're paying back the loan,” said Hepp.

Susan Radford pushed to get the water bill on the board's latest agenda.

“We're barely making it as it is and then with you increasing this, you know, there's a lot of things we're going without,” Radford added.

A heated exchange ensued at the meeting as emotions spilled over, with little resolution. The water expenses are split between around 200 households. Hepp says having fewer people to cover the cost already raises those rates, so it's a vicious cycle with no end in sight.

City leaders promised to check meters for households that dispute their bill. Yet, those homeowners will have to cover the cost if the meters are found to work properly.

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