By Deb Murphy
Two community workshops on rate increases for Inyo County-operated water systems went smoothly earlier this month, so now all that’s left to do is follow the red tape set to put those rates in place.
The County took over the operation of water systems in Lone Pine, Independence and Laws in late 2017 when the contract with Wilder-Barton ended. With cost savings of bringing the systems into the Public Works Department, the goal now is to begin infrastructure upgrades.
Deputy Public Works Director Chris Cash told the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s Board meeting there was a clear majority of attendees at the sessions in Independence and Lone Pine to go with the faster phase-in option. That option would see residential rates go from $28.38 to $44.36, a 50-percent increase, in the first year followed by a 10-percent increase in 2021 and 5-percent bumps the next three years ending at $56.51 a month.
The other option would end at the same place with a 30-percent increase in the first year and four consecutive 10-percent rate jumps.
The rate increases come under state regulations established by Prop. 218 back in 1996. Once the rate study report is finalized and approved by the Board, impacted rate-payers receive notice of the increases and the dates and times of open houses to further discuss the rates. Those notices will go out sometime after July 8. Within 45 days of those notices hitting mail boxes, the County will hold two open houses in each of the effected communities.
Cash hadn’t worked out the details for the 17-customers in Laws, but said the sessions would probably be at the museum.
After those 45 days, the County will hold a Public Hearing and if written protests do not exceed 50-percent of rate-payers, plus one, the new rates will go into effect.