Tahoe City: Water, sewer rates raised | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City: Water, sewer rates raised

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

While current rate payers pay a flat $43.76 a month for water, the proposed increase would raise the flat rate to $48 a month with additional charges based on consumption. With an average consumption of approximately 12,000 gallons a month, residents will pay $55.20 a month under the proposed rate increase, instead of the $43.76 current flat rate.

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TAHOE CITY ” The Tahoe City Public Utility District Board of Directors approved increases on water and sewer utility rates at a Board meeting Monday morning.

The decision marks the penultimate step in a process that has been 18 months in the making. A final step is still needed to give rate payers an opportunity to negate the increases when the District holds a public protest meeting on Feb. 25, 2009.

The rate increases are designed to help finance improvements to the aging water and sewer systems that supply Tahoe City. The increase will take place over a five-year period.

While many public voices at the meeting believed improvements were necessary for the utility systems, they did not think a rate increase was a good decision in such an unstable economy.

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“It is a big hit for people, but it is something we have to have,” said resident Sue Rae Irlan, adding that the increase is a modest investment compared to what it could cost to fix in later years.

Jan Brisco worries that rate increases are going to pay for projects that could potentially be problematic.

“What happens if these projects don’t go through?” questioned Brisco, later recommending a contingency plan be attached to the increases.

According to District Engineer Matt Homolka, the equipment and facilities are reaching the end of their service lives and are inadequately sized for supply needs.

Among the facilities that were constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Bunker water tank is the oldest at 48 years.

“Because most of the system was built at one time, replacing it will also have to be done at one time,” Homolka said.

According to Utility District General Manager Cindy Gustafson, the water and sewer systems are not in danger of failure, rather, they require system improvements to bring them up to fire and health code standards.

Believing a five-year commitment to rate increases is too much, Vice President Erik Henrikson was the only Board member to oppose the motion.

According to other Board members, the water and sewer rates are reviewed every year and can always be adjusted down if possible.

“This is the maximum it would be,” said Board member Lou Reinkenson on the rate increase. “We can always lower it, but to get these improvements going we have to spend the money up front.”

Next year’s water and sewer capital projects have been prioritized on a “must do,” “need to do,” and “should do,” basis with total water capital projects totaling $1,611,829 and total sewer capital projects totaling $491,030.