SOUTH WHITLEY — Water utility rates in South Whitley are going to rise as the town seeks a $2.5-million investment in better water quality.

Some residents, however, fear the cost may be too great.

At the Nov. 28 Town Council meeting, Water Operator Ron Anderson explained that the investment will be in a new treatment facility to better control iron in the water system.

“Our biggest problem is the rust in homes and plugging the lines,” he said. “We’re looking for it with our infrastructure in mind. Over the long term, this is going to be very beneficial to the community. Your water quality will go up.”

Steve Carter, a financial consultant aiding the town laid out some of the changes the project will bring. In order to complete the project, the town will have to take out a $2.5 million dollar bond to be repaid over the course of 20 years. With a 2 percent interest rate, the town will pay $192,000 per year. The proposed increase has to cover that difference, by law.

As it stands, the current minimum monthly payment to use South Whitley utilities is $15.60 per month, and an average 4,000-gallon-per-month user pays $28.14. With the new rates, the minimum rises to $21.85 and a 4,000-gallon user pays $39.41, a respective increase of $6.25 and $11.27.

The council held a public hearing on the issue, which was met by several concerned residents in the area. Residents in the Starlite Estates manufactured housing subdivision on the south side of town raised concerns. Because Starlite is not technically part of South Whitley, residents there pay an additional 50 percent for use of the town’s utility service.

Dixie Rensboro, a resident of Starlite Estates, already struggles to pay the current bill, she said.

“My water is getting to where it’s my most expensive utility,” she said. “I’m paying $100 a month for one person just for water and sewage.”

One solution to the additional amount the housing development pays is for the town to annex it, but Kathy Marburger does not want annexation.

“The reason I chose to live out there is that I am not interested in being part of the town,” she said. “If you annex, I’m going to move.”

However, annexation appears unlikely at this time.

“There have been discussions for the past year of annexing different parts of the town, but we haven’t given it any consideration recently,” Town Council President Randy Cokl said.

Ultimately, Councilman Les Hoffman moved to pass the utility hike.

At the meeting

• Christine Scroggs of the Whitley County Salvation Army visited to make sure South Whitley knew that the nonprofit has services available for rural Whitley County communities.

“We do help with utility assistance if needed,” she said.

• The town awarded Advanced Disposal for its five-year waste removal contract.