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Benton Utilities official explains rate increases are necessary

People in Benton may soon see a rise in utility bills. Here's why officials said a rate increase isn't just a want, but rather a serious need.

BENTON, Ark. — As cities have continued to grow, they will eventually need upgrades. That's exactly the situation that Benton has found itself in, but experts have explained that those upgrades won't be cheap.

"So many of the things that we do cost money, regardless of what the project may be," Jerry Ponder, President of Benton Utilities Commission, said.

He explained that as Benton gets bigger, so do the needs of its residents.

"All of those things added together to create a situation where more funds are needed," he described.

Ponder also explained that Benton Utilities needs more money and quite a bit of it. While they don't want to do it, they need to consider raising utility rates for customers.

"I think it's the most fair proposal we could've presented," Ponder said.

Under a proposed rate increase, Benton Utilities' customers could see a monthly average increase of $17, which would total a yearly average increase of $210.

Though Ponder admitted it's a steep increase, he explained how it's a necessary one.

He said Benton Utilities has been operating in the red for the past couple months, and if the rate increase isn't approved, current outstanding issues would only get worse.

"Much in the same fashion that we have put off some of the projects that these rates will fix, we will have to continue on in that vein," Ponder said. "You can only do that for so long."

Ponder added that other proposed rate increases happened a few years ago, but they weren't approved.

When we reached out to the city, they sent a statement: 

"The City of Benton encourages everyone affected by the potential utility rate increase to attend the public hearing on Dec. 12. It is only with the public's help and input on this matter that all parties involved can make the right decision for what's best for the people of Benton and the Utility Department itself."

"We may very well have to revisit this in 2025," Ponder said. "We just don't know, we don't have that crystal ball out there, we're just trying to make the best decisions we can with the information we have today."

A public input meeting is scheduled for December 12.

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