Onalaska officially raises water bill costs

Increase marks city's biggest water bill increase in a decade

Everyone is going to be affected by this a little differently. Residents will see the smallest bill increase at about 23 percent and it will be even higher for commercial and industrial customers. While Onalaska city officials said the price hike is necessary, some water users said it’s too steep.

Miguel Guerrero has owned Tequila Mexican restaurant in Onalaska for eight years.

“We’re a family business,” Guerrero said.

Whether it’s for drinks, the bathroom or even decorations, water helps make his business run.

“We are lucky that we live in an area, where water is not a problem for us; we have lots of water,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said that’s why it’s so frustrating to hear that Onalaska is increasing commercial businesses water bills up to 83 percent.

“It’s a lot,” he said.

Onalaska city officials said it’s what has to be done.

“As of last year we just slightly didn’t bring in enough revenue to cover expenses,” Jarrod Holter, city engineer for Onalaska, said.

Onalaska residents and business owners will see their first bill hike this fall; increasing annual utility revenue by more than $250,000 to $2.137 million.

“That covers operating expenses such as chemicals fuel power, employee wages, things such as that to keep the system running,” Holter said.

Water cost will increase again in 2016, bringing annual city utility revenue to $2.398 million, a portion of that money will go toward putting in a new water well.

“We’ll actually be using it every day then and be using it to pump water to the eastern edges of our city,” Holter said.

The changes have been officially approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, but Guerrero said he’s still going to talk to the city.

“Hopefully they reconsider the increase because that’s really going to affect our pockets,” Guerrero said.

Customers will see their first water bill raise this October, and then again in October 2016. Officials said they hope to keep it at that rate for a while. This is Onalaska’s biggest water bill increase in a decade.