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Water rate increase passes

CLWA board members approve higher fees despite public opposition

Posted: September 9, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Updated: September 10, 2009 5:30 a.m.
 
Homeowners hooked up to the Santa Clarita Water Division will get hit with higher water rates in 2010, according to water officials.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency board, which oversees the Santa Clarita Water Division, passed a retail rate increase Tuesday night. Customers sounded off at the meeting in opposition to the rate increases.

“Conservation to me seems to be a code for overcharge,” said Dale Summerhays, 60, of Saugus. “You’re doing this under the guise of conservation. You’re raising the rates to the max on the backs of the homeowners.”

Summerhays comments came during the public comment period prior to the board’s vote. Rate payers accused the board of jacking up rates to accommodate growth in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Mauricio Guardado, general manager for Santa Clarita Water Division, insisted that water rate hikes have nothing to do with development.

“There’s a perception that our rates increase is linked to growth — it’s not,” he said.

The average household bill will jump from $40 per month to $42 beginning 2010. The Santa Clarita Water Division, which serves more than 25,000 customers, will also adopt a tiered water rate system to push conservation, Guardado said.

The tiered water rate system will provide revenues for future conservation efforts.

However, it is not the only reason Santa Clarita Water Division is seeking a water rate increase. The Water Division is passing through cost from Castaic Lake Water wholesale rate increase in August, and must pay millions of dollars to upgrade an aging water system, Guardado added.

“Castaic Lake Water Agency purchased the water company 10 years ago with pipes in the ground from the 1940s,” said B.J. Atkins, Castaic Lake Water board member.

Guardado said many of those pipes need to be replaced and rate payers can either absorb the burden of paying those costs now or defer maintenance and pay more later.

However, to some in attendance, the current economic crisis makes a rate hike hard for customers to swallow.

TimBen Boydston, former Santa Clarita city councilman asked the board to hold off on the rate increases until the economy recovers.

“Be different and vote no in this increase until the economy stabilizes,” he said.        

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