Ask Jessie: BPU rate increases make residents dig deep 

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By Jessie Wagoner

 

Editor’s Note: We receive questions regularly from readers about a variety of topics important to those living in McPherson County. We will attempt to provide answers to as many of those questions as possible. If you have a question, ask Jessie by emailing jessie@mcphersonweekly.news.com.

 

Question: My BPU bill is much higher than usual, even though my usage amounts haven’t changed. What is going on?

 

The McPherson Board of Public Utilities South Well-field development has left many consumers digging deep into their pockets to pay for recent rate increases. While the project has been in the works for years, the rate increases just recently took effect.

Those higher bills residents are seeing are related to the well development, a much-needed but costly project to provide an additional water supply for McPherson. BPU has been monitoring McPherson’s primary water source, the Equus Beds, for years. Over the last 10 years, a significant decline has been observed.

“With the projected community growth, it was deemed critical that the BPU got forward in developing the South Wellfield as an additional water source,” BPU said in a statement on their website regarding the rate increases.

The $27.62 million project will be financed over a 30-year period. In November of 2020, the city approved the bond for the project. To cover the annual bond payments for the project, they approved three, eight-percent water rate adjustments effective January 2021, 2022 and 2023. In total, the utility will have raised rates 39 percent over four years to fund the project, which is nine percent less than originally estimated.

“These rate increases are expected to be stretched over about a four-year period and projected to cause the average residential customer to see approximately a $17 dollar per month total increase on their water bill,” BPU’s statement reads. “The adjustments for this project will only affect the water portion of the monthly bill. While rate adjustments are at-hand, they are only expected to be at 48 percent over 2019’s rates vs. the 400 percent, which has been rumored.”

However, those aren’t the only increases residents are seeing on their bills. It may be hot in McPherson right now, but residents are still paying for the cold snap that hit the country during February. The cold weather in February left BPU with a purchase power bill from Evergy that was three times a typical bill. Around 91 percent of the energy purchased by the utility was close to normal cost, with nine percent being close to 35 times normal. Instead of hitting customers with that bill all at once, BPU is spreading the increased cost out over a six-month period for residential and medium commercial customers. By spreading the fees out, the increased cost for residential customers will be approximately $.015/kWH or $13.50 per month.