MOUNT CARMEL — After years of avoiding the inevitable, the city council members voted Monday to increase water rates and utility fees beginning June 20, 2017.

The unanimous decision came after Water and Sewer Commissioner Justin Dulgar stressed the need for maintenance on both water towers, which is estimated to be at least a $1 million project. City water lines also need to be replaced, he said.

All metered customers and users within the city limits will see an increase of about $2 in their water bills, depending on water usage, Dulgar said.

The current monthly minimum charge for the first 1,000 gallons of water is $7.09, which will increase to $8.25 next month. The next 99,000 gallons per 1,000 gallons will increase from $4.71 to $4.95.

The increases will continue through 2019, with base rates going up by 42 cents in April 2018, and an additional 44 cents in April 2019. Over the next two years, the total increase for the base rate will be $2.02.

Water utility fees are also increasing under the a ordinance, from $4 to $5 in the first year, and will go up another dollar in the second year.

The last water rate increase took effect in 2011.

Finance Commissioner Joe Judge wanted to respond to social media comments complaining about the potential increase.

"We basically have everything split up into two different categories, enterprise or general fund accounts," Judge began. "Enterprise accounts are like the airport, the golf course, the water and sewer departments and the garbage department — they are self-supporting, they are like internal businesses within the city and do not rely on taxes to support them. The general fund heavily relies on property, sales and income taxes and fines from the police department — those accounts are the executive, fire, police and street departments."

Judge said the taxes received from the Sunday liquor sales cannot be used towards support the water or sewer plant. Those tax monies can only be used to support departments within the general fund.

"That's why several months back I talked about buying local and all of those revenues staying here within the city corporate limits being important to the fire, police and street departments," he said.

The council also approved an $80,972 MFT expenditure for street maintenance including traffic lights, patching and chip and seal endeavors.

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