Anyone upset about the proposed 20-percent increase in Butte’s water rates can let commissioners know in person Wednesday night, but time for speaking up is running out.
Meanwhile, members of Action Inc. and the Continuum of Care Coalition will tell commissioners what they’re doing to curb homelessness in Butte. The issue has gained more attention of late given the closing of the Butte Rescue Mission’s shelter in April.
The presentation comes a week before commissioners decide on a new $172,000 contract with Action Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides services to the homeless and other people in need. Commissioners have penciled in that amount in the budget but a contract is still pending.
The council meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on the third floor of the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse, 155 W. Granite St.
The public hearing on water rates is required before increases can be finalized, which the council might do as early as next week. The issue has been discussed publicly for weeks, however, and Kareniesa Kohn, administrative assistant to Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Dave Palmer, said Tuesday she has received no calls about it from residents.
The proposed increases already are lower than first pitched -- a 45-percent hike over three years -- because some commissioners thought that was too burdensome on poor and fixed-income residents. County officials scaled it back to a 10-percent increase this year and another 10-percent next year.
Under the proposal, the average monthly flat rate with sprinkling charge would go from $57.57 to $69.66 by the second year. The average monthly meter rate would jump from $40.34 to $48.41 over that time.
County officials say the increases are needed to offset a shortfall in expenses and to pay for about $600,000 in new, annual operating and maintenance costs for the Basin Creek water treatment plant.
The Continuum of Care Coalition says it has been using newer methods to immediately identify the homeless, find them housing arrangements and match them with services they need quickly to overcome their challenges.
The coalition includes Action Inc., Western Montana Mental Health, the Public Housing Authority, Volunteers of America, Southwest Montana Community Health Center, and the county's health and law enforcement departments.
In a letter to commissioners, Margie Seccomb, Action Inc.’s chief executive officer, said they are employing an “evidence-based system to end homelessness.”
“We would very much appreciate an opportunity to share with you how public funds are being used to build cost-efficient, proven systems to improve living conditions for all citizens,” she wrote.