Over the Hill

Paso’s sewer upgrade riding on rise in rates

If you live in Paso Robles, like I do, and have a swimming pool, like I don’t, you should avoid filling your pool this December, January or February. It could raise your sewer bills. That’s right; your “sewer” bills, not water bills.

The Paso Robles City Council took the first step Tuesday night toward raising our sewer rates. We now pay $25.86 per month no matter of how much or how little liquid and flotsam we discharge into the sewer. (“Discharge” is sewer-insider talk for flush, drain or pour.)

But our new sewer rates will be figured differently. They’ll be based on the amount of sewage we produce.

You may wonder how city personnel will measure the amount of sewage Mamie and I produce.

Actually, they won’t measure it.

They’ll just look up how much water we used the previous December, January and February. Almost nobody irrigates during those months, so they assume all water used went into the sewer.

They will then calculate the average of those three months, and bill us for that much sewage each month. They will recalculate it every July.

It’s easy to figure. Our water bills show our past year’s water consumption. I figured we’d be charged for five sewer billing units per month.

A billing unit is 748 gallons. The proposed new rate is $4.50 per billing unit for the first year. Our five billing units will cost $22.50 per month, $3.36 less than I’m paying now.

I still don’t plan to install a swimming pool. The sewer rate will increase each year. In year five, it’ll be $7.80 per billing unit. For five units that’s $39 per month.

There are other billing formulas for apartment houses, schools and businesses. I didn’t hear anyone complain about them at the hearing Tuesday night. The charges for connecting new buildings to the sewers will also increase substantially.

City officials say the increased sewer fees are mainly for constructing major upgrades to the city sewage treatment plant. It’s 58 years old. The state has been fining the plant an average of $9,000 per month for several years now for discharging forbidden stuff into the Salinas River.

There will be a protest hearing on the new rates in about 45 days. If they survive that, we’ll start paying them July 1. Construction could start in the fall of next year. But if we have marathon wrangling as we’ve had over water rates, Paso Robles could just go down the drain.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.