Tahoe water fees likely to increase | SierraSun.com

Tahoe water fees likely to increase

Developers in the North Tahoe area may soon face a significant increase in water costs due to a potential rise in connection fees and the possible approval of a new capacity fee.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District board directed staff at a meeting Tuesday to create a new fee schedule by June that would raise the connection fee for a single-family residential unit by 36 percent and impose a new capacity fee for projects larger than a standard single-family residence.

“We gave staff direction to develop a connection fee based on a $5,600 price at the next board meeting,” said board President Lane Lewis.

District staff cited rising material and labor costs and the increasing need for system-wide improvements as reasons for the fee increase.

Since the water system is funded entirely by the initial buy-in fee and continual water rates, the district needs a fee increase to cover water maintenance costs, said board member John Bergmann.

“If we don’t do anything, at what point will we not be able to serve?” asked district General Manager Steve Rogers.

The suggested increase would require developers who want deliveries from the district water system to pay $1,498 more than today’s connection fee of $4,112 for a single-family residential unit.

The proposed $5,600 connection fee would be used as a benchmark to pro-rate commercial connection fees.

If someone wishes to change the use of their existing property, or build more than a single-family unit, the district may charge a capacity fee to cover the cost of the needed infrastructure. No specific amount was proposed Tuesday.

“If that usage is different than that which is anticipated on those lots ” primarily single-family homes ” then a capacity fee needs to be put in place to help pay for the increased demand that that project will put on the system,” Bergmann said.

“We felt that if somebody changes the use on a piece of property that creates a capacity issue, then they should be paying the incremental cost of the utilities to that development,” Lewis said. “We didn’t feel that it would be fair … that the existing customers should be paying for the increase in capacity.”

Board member Jeff Lanini opposed the capacity fee.

“Have one fee that’s … an infrastructure fee, and then let the [meter] rate do the capacity,” he said.

The board discussed a similar cost adjustment for sewer connection fees, but were not interested in creating a sewer capacity fee. Board members also considered an annual escalation rate that would update fees to accurately reflect their real value.

Money received from the increased fees would fund such immediate projects as pipe replacement and the development of increased water storage, eventually paying for the expansion of a water treatment plant, Rogers said.

Some board members expressed concern about achieving a balance that would require developers to pay their way, but also encourage development by keeping the cost down.

“I’m trying to keep [fees] relatively stable so that people can afford to build or modify their property,” said board member Sue Daniels.

The board will review the proposed fee schedule at its next meeting on June 12.

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