Special Council meeting tonight to suspend sewer surcharge increase
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula City Council
Published: October 17, 2012
There will be a special meeting of the City Council tonight, Wednesday, to suspend implementing the latest increase on the sewer surcharge while utility costs are studied.
The October 17 meeting will start at 6 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers. It will not be broadcast on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.
The only item on the agenda other than public comment is to suspend implementing the sewer surcharge processing fee that was supposed to kick in November 1. The fee for residential users would have increased from 58˘ per 100 cubic feet of water - 748 gallons - to $1.12 per 100 cubic feet of water. The agenda notes the fee increase would be suspended for six months while staff reviews the “current water and wastewater utility rate study.”
Rising utility costs, particularly the sewer surcharge that bills customers for water not treated at the water recycling plant, have been the focus of increasingly strong public questions and objections for more than a year. And the cause of mixed messages: just weeks ago, city staff and elected officials were stating the billings could not be suspended for any reason, and in fact such a move could harm the city’s bond rating.
Jaime Fontes, city manager, said at a special council meeting Saturday that - after discussion with the bond firm - the increase on the charge can be held off, which will relieve cash strapped customers. With the sewer-processing surcharge, Santa Paula, one of the lowest income communities in the county, now has the highest utility rates in the county.
At the time the new sewer surcharge was adopted in 2009 for 2011 implementation, it was believed the charge would be subject to a baseline calculation that would add about $5 a month to residential sewer bills. Speakers have told the council they are paying hundreds of dollars more a month to maintain landscaping and fruit trees, water that is not processed at the sewer plant but still subject to the surcharge.