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Water rates spiking in Benton Harbor

Water bills in Benton Harbor will jump at least 40-percent in November.

Benton Harbor’s water system has served the city and surrounding Benton Charter, St. Joe Charter, Hagar and Sodus Townships. Earlier this month Benton Township put its own system online.

The township decided to separate from Benton Harbor after years of mismanagement by the city.

According to a City of Benton Harbor September 30, 2010 Financial Plan:

Prior to deciding to build their own plant, Township officials proposed a water authority to Benton Harbor city officials, but were rebuffed. Recent efforts to dissuade the Township from constructing its own water system have been futile, as Township officials are resolute in their desire for the Township to own and operate its own water system. Due to the redundancies associated with two water systems service relatively small customer bases, significant water rate increase to both communities will be necessary.

The State of Michigan ruled Benton Harbor’s system ‘deficient’ in 2009. The project cost $12 million. The city had to borrow millions of dollars from the state to fix it, but 40-percent of the cost was covered by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Benton Township represented 40-percent of the City of Benton Harbor’s water customers.  That means its remaining customers will see higher rates so those loans can be repaid on time.

Benton Harbor remains under the control of an Emergency Manager. He was appointed by the state in 2010 to fix the city’s finances.

This article was revised to fix a mathematical error.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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