SLO County Roundup


Atascadero water users will see a 15 percent increase in fees starting in February, the private utility’s board of directors decided Wednesday night.

The Atascadero Mutual Water Co. board voted 5-0 to approve staff recommendations to increase water rates for households and businesses.

The utility has 10,500 customer accounts that serve a population of about 30,000.

For residents, the fee hike means an increase to $65.90 per month from $56.80 in the summer for 22,000 gallons used; and to $28 per month from $24 in the winter for 7,000 gallons used.

For commercial users, bills would go to $28 per month from $24 in the summer for 7,000 gallons used; and to $20 per month from $17.20 in the winter for 3,000 gallons used.

The higher rates will fund ongoing water costs and help pay for Atascadero’s portion of the Nacimiento Water Project — a 2,000-acre-foot annual share that will be ready for users in April, according to company officials.

The 45-mile, $176 million Nacimiento pipeline will carry millions of gallons of drinking water from Nacimiento Lake to Paso Robles, Atascadero, Templeton, San Luis Obispo and parts of Cayucos.

Atascadero’s annual debt payment would be about $2.4 million. Pipeline construction wrapped up this fall, and the system is in the final testing stages.

— Tonya Strickland

Paso Robles

Returning Mayor Duane Picanco and Councilmen John Hamon and Ed Steinbeck took their oaths of office Tuesday at the Paso Robles City Council meeting.

Almost 68 percent of the city’s roughly 14,800 registered voters took part in the city election on Nov. 2.

Picanco kept his position with 4,300 votes against contender Gary Nemeth, who garnered 2,511 votes, according to certified election results.

Picanco has served on the City Council, the Paso Robles Planning Commission and numerous committees. His November victory marks the fourth time he’s been elected as Paso Robles mayor.

— Tonya Strickland

Carolers and crowds are expected to line a richly decorated downtown neighborhood this weekend during the annual Paso Robles Vine Street Victorian Showcase.

Saturday’s celebration will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on Vine Street between Eighth and 21st streets. Thirteen blocks of homes, businesses and schools along the historic North County street are blocked off so people can walk the neighborhood’s various lighted attractions.

Holiday décor is one highlight, participants say, but there’s also free cotton candy, cookies and refreshments along the route.

The public activities take place outside and include staged performances, choirs and interactive costumed characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dogs aren’t allowed at the event.

Handicapped parking will be available on Olive and Ninth streets. Regular street parking is available but not on the streets blocked from traffic.

Forecasts call for clear skies, but the showcase will happen even if it rains, organizers said.

— Tonya Strickland

Grover Beach

Kids can experience the world of competitive robotics up close this weekend at the Exploration Station in Grover Beach.

Arroyo Grande High School’s Eagle Robotics Team 1388 will visit the Children’s Interactive Science Center on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.

Team members will show off last year’s robot, Phoenix, and talk about the programming, designing, fabrication and marketing that go into creating a robot for competition. They’ll also show off Lego Mindstorms robots and simple computer programs.

This hands-on event is free with admission to the science center, which costs $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and children 3 and older.

The Children’s Interactive Science Center houses permanent displays about the human body, electricity, weather and other subjects, as well as rotating, science-themed exhibits.

The center is open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

For more information, call 473-1421 or visit www.explorationstation.org.

— Sarah Linn