Santa Paula Times

Winter rate, tiered rates, all on the
table at Monday’s water workshop

August 08, 2014
Santa Paula News

The city is hoping for a big turnout Monday at a workshop where future water/sewer rates and methods of calculating same will be addressed.

The August 11 meeting will be held at the Community Center starting at 6:30 p.m. 

The meeting, the first on water/sewer rate issues since May 2013, will be a workshop featuring the Ad Hoc Committee of Mayor Rick Cook and Councilman Bob Gonzales.

Since 2009-2010, water rates have increased from a meter/service charge of $17.82 a month to $22.35 2011-2012. The present $24.57 basic meter/service rate was implemented fiscal year 2012-2013; the actual water charge is $2.43 per 100 cubic feet (748 gallons).

Monthly sewer rates, which had been $42.68 since 2006, were increased to $59.39 in 2009-2010. The following year the rate jumped to $77.21 and has remained the same since 2010. 

The controversial sewer surcharge fee of 0.58 cents per 100 cubic feet was initiated in November 2011 and subsequently almost doubled to $1.12 per 100 cubic feet.

Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez said it is very important for residents to attend the meeting, reflected by the city’s outreach effort centered on the session.

Said Yanez, “Residents need to go, to be heard... that’s why we’re having this meeting to begin with. The notice of the meeting went out in every bill this month, we’ve been running quarter page ads in the newspaper,” in English and Spanish.

“We’re trying,” he added, “to get everyone to go... “

The session will also be educational: “A lot of people don’t understand how a rate is developed,” and what it includes, such as the water meter charge that covers the cost of service and maintenance.

The session will also feature the presentation of the new rate study.

“We have a debt to pay back,” said Yanez, and “a balance has to be made,” between residential and commercial water users to help pay off the debt.

But customers will probably all be relieved to hear that, “One of our main things is to use the winter average for our sewer surcharge,” which will require further study but would eliminate the controversial sewer surcharge.

Yanez said a study would be conducted using the traditionally wettest months, November, December, January and February, to determine the two months of lowest water consumption to set an average sewer surcharge fee. 

Such a study, first announced in 2008 but never launched - and later denied by the city - assumes water used during winter months is actually for direct household needs and does get processed at the sewer plant warranting the surcharge. During warmer months the increase in water consumption is used for landscaping purposes and is not processed at the sewer plant. 

Due to California’s record drought the city will decide just what year would be suitable for the winter water usage study.

Also being examined is a tiered system for water consumption, which Yanez said is “A conservation measure and a reward for those using less water,” who would pay lower rates.

Subsequently, those that use more water would pay more, a price that would escalate as each upper tier is reached.

Conservation will also be examined.

Overall, Yanez said, “We need people to see what this study looks like,” as far as rates and methods of setting same go, with new rates and programs being adopted likely early next year.

Yanez said there will also be an update on the results of the meeting at the August 18 City Council meeting.  

Efforts for the city to purchase the wastewater recycling facility - a privately owned Design/Build/Operate/Finance project completed in June 2011 at a cost of approximately $60 million - have languished for years. The DBOF method of constructing the facility and the cost to citizens has been controversial since the council a 3-2 vote approved it in 2008.

Santa Paulans now pay the second highest base charge per month on sewer service in Ventura County; with the surcharge many households have the highest monthly bills in the county.

For more information, contact the Public Works Department, 933-4212 ext 305.

Monday’s workshop will be taped for later broadcast on Time Warner Cable.