Missouri American Water customers could soon be paying more if a proposed water and sewer rate increase is approved by the Public Service Commission.
"It's upsetting. It's just upsetting,” Stonebridge Village Resident Jerry Swinehart said.
Swinehart says the increase would mean he would pay about 68 percent more each month. That is on top of other increases that, he says, were only recently put into place.
"Prior to 2015, we were paying $2.37 per 1,000 gallons. Then, in 2016, Missouri American Water raised our rate to $3.74 per 1,000 galllons. Now, their proposed rate is $6.29 per 1,000 gallons of water, which is a 265% increase in the last three years,” Swinehart said.
He is not happy about it.
"That is just ridiculous,” Swinehart said
Other customers who showed up to a public hearing in Branson Thursday weren’t happy about the proposal either.
"That's why we are here today. Honestly, the day that we can't agree to disagree in a room about issues is a sad day,” Missouri American Water External Affairs Manager Christie Barnhart said.
Barnhart says company leaders would like to raise rates, mainly, to pay for infrastructure improvements completed throughout the state.
"When we do system improvements, we have to make the improvements, then try to cover the cost of those improvements,” Barnhart said.
However, local customers say they shouldn't have to pay for improvements that were made in areas other than where they live. The company says the rate change would make it so all customers throughout the state pay the same rate.
"The reason that I tell people that's a good thing is whenever you're looking at capitol improvements and you can spread that cost among a larger group of people, that creates an economy of scale that we feel is advantageous for the customer,” Barnhart said.
Stonebridge Village is just one of several Ozarks communities where residents have no other option besides Missouri American Water when it comes to water and sewer service. The general manager says he hopes the Missouri Public Service Commission will stop what many are calling an unfair proposal.
"I think it's unfair for our owners to be expected to pay such a high rate when it's supposed to be governed by somebody,” Bill Hasler said.
The decision is ultimately up to the Public Service Commission. If the increase is approved, customers will start paying more in April or May.
Missouri American Water provides service to several areas in the Ozarks, including Saddlebrooke, Lake Taneycomo Acres, and Emerald Pointe. While the rate increase will impact all customers, the percentage will vary from customer to customer.
The proposal also includes lowering the company's fixed charge by about $5 per month.
Customers can voice their concerns or ask questions by contacting Missouri American Water.