TDPUD hikes electric, water rates
Over the past couple weeks, Truckee Donner Public Utilities District (TDPUD) employees have been as busy as ever.First, there was a rash of blackouts across the district, causing some residents to lose power for days at a time. Then, at the TDPUD’s Dec. 18th meeting, the board of directors passed two ordinances, both of which will increase electric and water rates across the district as soon as Jan. 18.”The electric increase has been the most difficult issue the [TDPUD] has had to deal with,” said Peter Holzmeister, the TDPUD’s general manager. “When electricity was deregulated, the Enrons of the world drove the prices up too high.”The new ordinance will augment electric rates by 9.1 percent, which amounts to $7.46 per month for the average resident.Based on its budget for 2003, the TDPUD needed to raise $15,466,495 in additional revenue through electric rates. The funds provided by the increase should also help the district renege their nine-year contract with IdaCorp, Holzmeister said.”Our contract with IdaCorp is just too expensive,” he added. “Part of the increase in rates is in anticipation of making a payment to IdaCorp to get out of that contract. It hasn’t been done yet, but I have a good feeling about our negotiations with them.”Currently, the TDPUD has seven years left on the contract.In addition to electric revenues, the district needed to raise an extra $708,806 through water rates to help pay off the new 6160 water tank, reimburse the electric fund for an internal loan and pay for the power to pump water.One controversial part of the TDPUD’s initiative, the construction water rate, was tabled until Holzmeister gets more information about that increase to the board. The $20-per-month rate would have raised approximately $48,000 for the district in 2003.Still, residential and commercial water rates will go up.”The water increases are, in part, because the electric rates went up,” Holzmeister said. “Beyond debt service, the electricity it takes to pump water is a large part of the cost for water.”The ordinance will increase water rates by nearly 9 percent – or an average of $4.65 for residential customers.With every 200-foot gain in elevation, the TDPUD has to pump water up another zone, which takes more electricity. For zone 11, the highest elevation in the district, the ordinance incurred a $6 increase per month. So at the top of Tahoe Donner, for example, the rates are going to be higher there than the average residence in Truckee. Residents there will pay one of the highest water bills in the state.”I think that the PUD has gotten itself in an expensive situation,” said Joe Burns, the executive director of the Contractor’s Association of Tahoe Truckee, referring to the district’s contract with IdaCorp.”I think that this increase in water rates is pretty steep, especially when you compare them to other districts in California.”However, Holzmeister said he was confident the increases were necessary to get the TDPUD back on track.”It stops us from doing all the Draconian things that PG&E had to do, like file for bankruptcy,” Holzmeister said. “I know it seems like a long time away, but in seven years, our rates are going to drop significantly.”
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