The first of what are anticipated to be annual water rate increases will go into effect in March of this year.
That, after Escalon City Council members on Monday night, Jan. 6 approved the five-year plan to incrementally raise the rates. City Manager Tammy Alcantor said the city did receive 22 letters protesting the proposed rate hikes, but the number of protests was far below the level required to block the city from enacting the increase.
Council members first looked at the revised rate structure a few months ago and notices required under Prop 18 were sent out to all those that will be affected by the rate hikes. The letters were sent out in late November and went to both residential and industrial users, said Alcantor. A listing of the new rates was included in that mailing.
“The council did adopt the proposed schedule,” Alcantor said, but added that they want the issue brought back every year prior to the next rate increase. That way, if officials determine the increase is not needed, they can take steps to keep the rates steady.
So basically, officials said, it is a five-year plan that was approved but with a review on an annual basis before finalizing the changes.
“Next year prior to March 1 we will bring it back to the council to approve,” Alcantor said.
Residents attending the meeting that spoke on water issues on Monday night did not talk so much about the rate increase as questioning the water quality and what steps the city is taking to make improvements.
Alcantor said part of the reason behind the rate hikes is the need for a replacement well, listed as Well 1A, which is replacing the abandoned Well 1 on Roosevelt Avenue.
“We had to abandon that well due to the high nitrate level,” Alcantor explained.
Some funding from the state is being used for the new well and the rate hikes are part of the city’s effort to show the rates can support the loan required to put the new well into operation.
That ability to support the loan was also the driving force behind the rate study, which in turn resulted in the proposed fees.
The new fees will also help with general operations and capital improvements. In addition, the five-year plan includes the possibility to connect to the surface water plant through SSJID and replacement of some water lines in the city. Alcantor said the city will look to upgrade security at its well sites; there are currently three operating wells providing the city with its water supply.
Hansford Economic Consulting LLC out of Truckee conducted the water rate study and the Monday night public hearing was the final step prior to the council approving the study and its recommended rate increases.