Winona city officals: "We didn't want to increase the utility rates"
POSTED: Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 9:54pm
UPDATED: Monday, April 21, 2014 - 8:50am
(KETK) - Tyler, Tx — Thursday we brought you a story about the city of Winona failing to pay its utility bills, putting city officials in a financial crisis. And after the city council voted in favor of raising the utility rates for residents, the people of Winona wanted answers.
The city of Winona is struggling, financially, and more than just the cities utility bills went unpaid. The former city administrator failed to pay several bills, and on top of that, the city is also now in the process of trying to fix water maintenance issues that did not meet state standards.
Mayor Rusty Smith says they are doing everything in their power to make this all right.
It is the responsibility of the city administrator to pay the bills for the city of Winona. This past February, he resigned, bringing several problems to the attention of the Mayor and council members.
"That's when we found out about the bills not getting paid," said Mayor Pro-Tem, Michael Jones. "The solid waste bill, trash pickup, and the employee health insurance."
So far, the city has paid the bills it owed from 2013, but they still owe more than 150,000 dollars to their gas company and to pay this back they are working to find ways to tighten the budget.
"It's like when you have a catastrophe in your family, you know financial hardship, you tighten your belt until you're over the hump," Jones said.
As for the utility rate increase that has many residents concerned, the city says it has nothing to do with their outstanding bills. Instead, they say it is to help the city update their wastewater system to meet state standards.
"In order to do the maintenance that needs to be done, maintenance we found out has not been being done over the last few years," said Mayor Rusty Smith. "We've got a lot of catch up to do, we have to put in a rate increase."
Mayor Smith said this will be the first rate increase in more than seven years. The increase for residents of Winona will go into effect May 1.