Water and sewer rate increases: It’s official | SierraSun.com

Water and sewer rate increases: It’s official

TAHOE CITY “-Increases to the Tahoe City Public Utility District’s water and sewer rates were officially established this week after the necessary amount of rate payer protest letters didn’t measure up .

McClintock Accountancy staff members counted the protest letters, including those brought to the hearing in the district’s board room, and determined that they did not add up to the necessary 50-plus-1 percent needed to stop the rate increases.

And after the results were disclosed, the board approved resolutions establishing water and sewer rates through 2013 as well as sewer and water rates for 2009, which were adjusted down 2 and 3 percent in light of additional revenues and savings discovered in the last two months.

The new consumption-based water and sewer rates will go into effect April 1. The district has estimated that during the first year of rate increases the average customer will pay $53.50 a month.

“I’m glad that we were able to have this conversation with our customers,” director Ron Treabess said after the hearing. “And while I know everyone didn’t walk away happy, I think from what people have said, they believed we were looking to do the best we could for them.”

Among the protesters that offered comments, Tahoe City small business owners were particularly worried that the new consumption-based rate increases would be difficult to take on because of the high quantity of water they need to operate.

“I don’t want to have to put a sign on my business that says ‘bathroom for customers only,'” said Steve Topol, owner of Blue Agave in Tahoe City.

But while those properties that consume significant amounts of water will start seeing much higher bills after April 1, board members said they sit in a position to possibly reduce rates if federal funds and grants currently being pursued are obtained.

That said, the board cannot raise rates without first holding another protest hearing.

“This is an ongoing process,” Treabess said. “We will continue to look for additional ways to make up for the revenue that is needed.”

New rate increases will help finance water and sewer infrastructure improvement projects during the next five years. There are 15 water projects at a cost of $15.2 million, and 35 sewer projects at $6.0 million, the district has deemed necessary.

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