By Deb Murphy
Residents of Lone Pine, Independence and Laws will get a chance to weigh in on a restructured water rates with increases phased in over the next five years as Inyo County launches its community outreach in the next four months.
The County opted to take back operation of three town systems as the management contract with Wilder-Barton was set to expire in late 2017. All three systems were in need of improvement; the savings from having Inyo’s Public Works Department take over operation would help, but wouldn’t meet all the demands.
A rate study consultant, Raftelis Financial, was hired to assess the rates and at last Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors got a look at the results of that study.
The bottom line, and the topic at the coming outreach, is a choice of ways to get to solvency with a $150,000 capital improvement bonus. Starting in 2020, rate-payers will see either a 30-percent base rate adjustment in year one followed by four years of 10-percent increases. Plan B will start with a 50-percent bang in 2020, followed by a 10-percent increase in 2021 and then three consecutive 5-percent increases.
The big difference: the rates will be based on meter size. No more monthly meter reading.
The Raftelis report pin-pointed the impact on the average residential customer with a ¾-inch meter. Under the 30-10 option, that average customer pays $32.38 a month now and will start paying $36.88 in 2020, topping out at $54 in 2024, a 47-percent increase.
With the 50-10-5 option, the biggest hit, obviously, starts in 2020 when the current “average residential customer” jumps from $32.38 a month to $42.56 in 2020, topping out at $54.20 in 2024.
Under the Long Term Water Agreement, those three communities pay nothing for water usage up to set thresholds. If those thresholds are passed, penalties under the agreement will be passed on.
Independence water customers will have to pay a surcharge to cover the existing debt of $154,000. The study proposes a $4.95 monthly surcharge for 5/8 to 1-inch meters, up to a $165 surcharge for 6-inch meters.
The study proposes a start date of July of this year following the community outreach sessions and a public hearing.