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Water Rate Hearing Slated
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Residents in Escalon will have the chance to learn more about the proposed increases to water rates at a public hearing set for Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 2060 McHenry Ave.

City Manager Tammy Alcantor said the plan was outlined earlier this year at a city council meeting and the city is working with a consultant on the water rate study and fee hike proposal.

“When we held the workshop we had about six members from the public,” Alcantor said of originally outlining the need for the increases, since there has not been a water rate increase in the city since 1996.

“Not all got up and spoke but those that did were questioning what some of the costs are and some of the future cost,” added Alcantor.

The increases will be phased in as a way to ease the burden on residents, who will be seeing the cost for water and water services go up for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Written and oral comments in opposition to the proposed rate increases will be taken at the public hearing and all written comments must also be provided to the City Clerk.

City Council members will consider adopting the rate hikes following the public hearing on March 16; however, if a majority of record owners of the affected parcels and customers submit written protests (50 percent plus one) the city will not approve the proposed water rates.

If the council does adopt the rates as proposed, increases will take effect May 1, 2015 and then on March 1 of subsequent years, 2016 through 2019.

Alcantor said the city needs to increase rates to help keep pace with inflation, maintain and upgrade aging infrastructure and be a self-sustaining operation. City officials also hope to build a small reserve in the water budget for unforeseen expenses.

A typical single family home, under the proposed increase, would see a bi-monthly bill increase from $45.50 in 2014 to $61.11 in 2015. That is based on usage of 28,000 gallons and would rise each year, up to a projected cost of roughly $80 bi-monthly by 2019.

“I am sure it is easier on residents to pay a little at a time as opposed to one large increase,” Alcantor said of implementing the increases over the course of four years. “The initial increase is designed to start collecting enough revenue to cover the current operating cost, including the refilling of a vacant staff position, and contributions to rehabilitation costs (depreciation cost). We currently have been utilizing funds collected to maintain infrastructure to operate the system.”

The March 16 public hearing will include an overall presentation of the rate study and will also include time for the public to comment or ask questions on the study before it goes to the council for final review and possible adoption.