The Cambrian

Cambria CSD makes case for rate hikes as some residents demand it hit the 'pause button'

Cambrians could find out soon if and/or when they’ll face a decision about higher rates for water and sewage treatment.

But first, the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors has its own decisions to make.

Directors will hold two public meetings — between 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, and late afternoon Thursday, July 12 — to discuss the public-protest process that’s mandated by the state if CCSD’s rates for well water, treated water from the Sustainable Water Facility and sewage treatment are to increase.

The first meeting — scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. — was a joint meeting of the directors and members of the district’s standing Finance Committee and Infrastructure Committee.

Among the issues to be covered were how and when to launch various projects in the district’s “to-do” capital improvement program, and most importantly, how to pay for them all.

The committee members also were to summarize their recommendations about three proposed models for increasing the rates — all at once in a “front-loaded” approach to raise about $700,000 a year, phased in over three years to raise the same amount or phased in but raising a reduced total of about $500,000 a year.

'Press the pause button'

Those recommendations are to be presented at the CCSD board’s meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday, also at the veterans building.

There, the five directors are to discuss the input they’ve received from consultant Alex Handlers of Bartle Wells Assoc., staff, ratepayers and the committees. They will then decide if they’ll immediately launch the 45-day comment period that state Proposition 218 requires so ratepayers can officially weigh in on the rate hikes.

If more than 50 percent of those property owners and district customers file written objections according to the requirements, the new rates can’t go into effect.

The board could also delay the decision Thursday, as some ratepayers repeatedly urged them to do. Several people have told the board to “press the pause button” or the protest movement will succeed.

But some directors indicated at previous meetings that (if the new rates pass ratepayer muster) they want to make the decision now so the new rates can go into effect in September.

District officials say the increases are needed if aging infrastructure is to be repaired and replaced.

“Many of CCSD’s facilities are approaching the end of their useful operating lives and are in need of rehabilitation and replacement,” according to the district’s draft notice of public hearing, the date for which hasn’t yet been finalized.

Operating and maintenance costs for the Sustainable Water Facility are also included, as are increased costs for meeting regulatory requirements for the plant.

How much?

What most ratepayers want to know is how much more will they pay every two months for water and sewage treatment if the new rates go into effect.

There are the three possible rate-increase models, plus individual charts about separate charges for basic service and quantity for well water, treated water from the Sustainable Water Facility and sewage treatment.

The district estimates in its draft notice that, if new rates go into effect Sept. 1, bi-monthly bills for the “average” customer that uses six units of water every two months (about 75 gallons a day) would increase to $211.30, rising from the current bill of $180.65.

Those rates are projected to rise annually in 2019 and 2020. For instance, some people say they’re already opposed to the increases and question the district’s estimates. Tina Dickason, who led Proposition 218 protests against previous district rate increases, said in May that, with her exceptionally low water use, she estimates her bills would double.

Protests

When the board starts the clock on the rate hikes, property owners and customers opposed to the increases are given at least 45 days to file written protests. If more than one protest is filed for a parcel, only one will be counted.

To be counted, a protest must:

Identify the affected property or properties by service address or Assessor’s Parcel Number.

Include the name and signature of the customer or property owner submitting the protest.

And indicate opposition to the proposed water and/or sewer-rate increases.

Protests can be submitted: By mail (District Clerk, P.O. Box 65, Cambria CA 93428); in person to the district office, 1316 Tamsen Street, Suite 201; or submitted in person in writing at the public hearing at the end of the process.

Those who approve of the rate hikes don’t have to do anything.

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