BAKER — Effective April 1, the fee the city of Baker pays to Capital Area Ground Water Conservation District will be doubled, but the increase will not immediately affect utility rates paid by residents of Baker, Mayor Harold Rideau told the City Council on Tuesday night.
Five parishes will be subject to the fee increase: Pointe Coupee, West Feliciana, East Feliciana, East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge, according to a letter from the Capital Area Ground Water Conservation District.
The district board of directors approved the increase from $5 to $10 per million gallons pumped at its September meeting. The money is needed to fund a study on the problem of saltwater intrusion into the groundwater in the area, according to the letter.
A public hearing on the issue will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 29 at the conservation district office, 3535 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite 137 in Baton Rouge.
In the long term, utility rates in Baker will have to be raised, Rideau said.
“Eventually, we will have salt water here, and the cost of getting water and filtering it will get unreal. That’s why I tried to get the utility rates increased, so that we could be prepared for this. Otherwise, we’ll have to raise rates a huge amount when that happens,” he said.
Rideau proposed utility rate increases twice in 2014, but both times, the rate hike was voted down by the City Council.
The council on Tuesday also voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance authorizing the Baker Utility Department to pay rent to the city of Baker for the office it uses in the Baker City Hall Building on Groom Road.
The proposed ordinance is a response to a recommendation by the city’s new auditor, Melvin Davis, who is working on the city’s audit, Rideau said.
The Utility Department would pay the city $26,750 per month as rent for the offices, and the rate would automatically increase 4 percent per year, under the ordinance.
A public hearing and final vote will take place at the council’s next meeting Jan. 12.
In other business, Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps addressed a proposed crime prevention district by residents of Parkwood Terrace subdivision.
In the Dec. 8 meeting, the council agreed to let the subdivision leaders begin the process of putting on the ballot a proposed property tax, paid solely by residents of the subdivision, to pay for extra security and other improvements.
In the nine years he has been police chief, there have been 12 burglaries and 18 thefts in that area, Knaps said.
“There are a lot of places that would love for that to be all it had. That’s very low,” he said.
Though the extra security would be paid for by the subdivision residents, if they decided to hire Baker police officers to patrol, the officers would have to use the cars owned by the city.
Council member Pete Heine pointed out the residents could hire whomever they want for security and wouldn’t necessarily have to use Baker police.