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Wausau Mayor shoots down talk of another water rate increase


Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg has a message for everyone concerned about rumors of another water rate increase to cover staffing at the new drinking water treatment plant.

“At this point, I would rather light myself on fire than engage in this right now,” said the Mayor. “I understand that there will probably be a point at which we are talking about this again, but I am not interested in doing this anytime soon.”

The rumor circulated last week after a committee heard a discussion about the need for additional employees and training at the new plant, saying the last rate study only covered expenses associated with the construction, installation, and operation of a new granular activated carbon filtration system. Rosenberg says any talk of increasing rates to cover additional staff is extremely premature, adding that there needs to be a conversation at the HR Committee level first before anything else is considered.

“That’s why we have a human resources committee; to analyze that gap or that pay. It’s important that we have those discussions and I think the biggest thing is having a plan. I don’t know what that looks like, but we definitely need to analyze it because it’s a big part of the discussion,” said Rosenberg.

Adding to the chaos is the fact that changes such as this must come through multiple channels including the City Council, which controls the majority of the funding for the water utility. Some pay raises and staffing for the utility were included in the recently passed 2024 budget, but others weren’t. She says that’s because they were waiting to schedule a joint meeting so all stakeholders could be together for the discussion.

“It kind of points out some of the issues [that come with] having a separate utility versus council [control.] I think there are, and maybe even most, of our council members are interested in having more of a say in this utility. That’s something we’ve been talking about- is this something that we would like to have as a committee of the council instead of a separate utility? That’s a discussion worth having, and we’ve talked about it a handful of times,” said Rosenberg.

She also wants residents to know that the city hears their concerns about water rates, which have skyrocketed as the city finishes the Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filtration system designed to remove PFAS. “All I’m hearing about right now is water rates. I get it, it’s huge and it’s taking us all a little bit of time to figure out where we are with this,” added Rosenberg. “Even the idea that somebody could think [we need another increase] is alarming to people who are just now getting settled with their current payments and bills. I totally get it, but we’re not ready to move forward with a case like that at all. We [would] need a lot more data.”

The city has taken legal action against PFAS manufacturing companies and their insurance companies, including a recently filed suit in Marathon County that names more than 70 defendants. Initial court action in that case is pending.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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