City hikes water rate
Local physical therapist Eric Vial was the only person to speak in opposition of the rate increase, making the argument that as he used less than the base rate amount of 300 cubic feet of water, he would be paying a higher percentage than residents or businesses that used the most water.
Public Works Director Craig Platt explained that he designed the pay-scale for the increase so that people using the most water within the city would be paying a higher overall rate than those using less water.
Lassen County Fair Board President Tim Bruce also spoke on the water rate increase. He explained that his last month’s water bill was $211, and while he voiced his approval of a plan to fix the city’s aging water infrastructure, he said it seemed like the plan would discourage people from keeping up their lawns.
City councilmember Doug Sayers asked Platt exactly where the annual revenue of $380,000 from the increase would go.
Platt responded by outlining the first year’s plan of replacing the city’s outdated water meters, which he said would improve the Public Work’s Department efficiency immensely. After that, the money would be used to upgrade pipes and infrastructure within the system. Platt said it would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million to completely upgrade the system, and the annual revenue from the rate increase would help the department eventually reach that goal.
Mayor Kurt Bonham said before passing the resolution that he wanted a more laid out plan for the revenue beyond the first year, and while he didn’t like approving rate increases, he was satisfied with Platt’s work on the situation. Bonham also said he worked extensively with City Attorney Peter Talia before the July 2 meeting to make the resolution crystal clear on how the money would only be used for the water system.
Bonham said that in the event the council became bold enough to try and use the money for anything else, there would need to be a public hearing, and the council would have to have a four-fifth’s vote before that could happen.
Breaking it down
The amount of water consumers use is generally measured in cubic feet. Platt said the average water user in the city can consume anywhere between 300 to 4,000 cubic feet per month. Depending on the time of year, that usage can fluctuate up or down. The first 300 cubic feet will now be included in the base rate, which is proposed to go up from $18.20 to $23.65 a month. This means that even if a person were to use less than 300 cubic feet of water in a month, (which he said is a very low amount of water, even for the lowest water users) that person would still pay at least $23.65.
Platt showed a side-by-side comparison of the old rates with the new rates and their effect on an older, three-bedroom house with a yard in Susanville. The house used the least amount of water during January of last year, at about 400 cubic feet. This amounted to a total water cost of $21.82. Under the new rates, that cost would go up to about $24.90, a $3.08 increase.
The peak water consumption month for the same house was July, with the house using 4,100 cubic feet of water. Last year that house would have paid a total of $60.93, but under the proposed increase, the residents would have to pay $74.21, a difference of $13.28.
The difference becomes larger for commercial businesses. He provided an example of an unspecified business in town which last year paid a total of $560.25 during the month of July for using 42,700 cubic feet of water. Under the new rates, it would pay $729.28, a difference of $169.03 from the previous year.
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