We Went to the Redway Water Meeting; Here’s What We Learned
The first two hours were spent reviewing the district’s ordinances for consistency. The final
draft copy of the ordinances can be viewed at the district’s office. Now the summary of changes will be published in the local newspapers before the Board holds a hearing for formal adoption of the current draft of the water ordinances. The public is invited to review and give feedback on these proposed changes.
The board then approved the new ordinances.
The Redway CSD is grappling with shortages in its system capacity at both the water and sewer treatment facilities. To generate revenue toward improving both those treatment plants, the board recently adopted new rates and fees.
The District has already adopted increases to its base rates for both sewer and water services. The increases are three dollars to the base rates of both water and sewage. The water services base rate rose to $27.00 plus there is a loan fund charge of $8.50 and a system enhancement fund of $8.00 for the water services, for a total of 43.50. And the sewer base rate is 40.50. This creates a bill of $83.50 before any water is used.
The water itself is relatively inexpensive. The first 500 cubic feet add only $4.75 to the bill. And another $4.00 to treat that water once it is used. So most families pay about $97.00 a month for 125 gallons a day of water.
To promote conservation, the price per hundred cubic feet of water, which is 748 gallons, goes up about 250% after the first five hundred cubic feet is used in a single month. The price every five 750 gallon units continue to climb as more water per month is used. But because the base rate is so high, using more water is much more cost effective than conserving.
As an illustration: for $97 a month a customer receives 500 cubic feet of water. This calculates to about 38 gallons to the dollar and provides about 125 gallons of water a day.
While a customer who uses 1,500 cubic feet of water pays $130 a month. This translates to 86 gallons to the dollar and makes available about 375 gallons a day.
While this appears to be crosswise water pricing, it is, in fact, an intentional effort to avoid turning water into a commodity by the State of California. It is not something unique to the Redway CSD. The water is essentially free, while the cost of the infrastructure to collect, treat and transport the water is in the base rate.
While reviewing the updates to the manual, the Board discussed late fees and disconnection fees for unpaid accounts. Before water is disconnected for lack of payment, late fees are charged to incentivize timely payment. During this final review of the district’s water ordinances, the Board found several formulas to determine when a late charge is added to an account. Because water and sewer service bills are due upon receipt, the board determined that an account remaining unpaid when the next bill is ready to be mailed out will have a late charge added to it. Meters are read in the last week of the month, and bills go out between the first and third of the following month. Customers who pay on or before the first of the month should avoid late fees. And if a second bill goes out without payment having been received, a shut-off notice is sent. The disconnection fee is $27.50. Board member Art McClure argued against adding a re-connection fee because it further burdens a person or family already having difficulty.
For new customers, being added to the RCSD services is a challenging proposition at this time because the District’s capacity is so limited. A new project has to be small enough that the district can fill the project’s needs with its limited capacity. The District has determined it can only serve 15 new families at this time. Applying for services with RCSD now costs $880. This fee will be applied to all applicants who do not yet have services from RCSD. In addition, there will now be a $12,445 new connection fee, and the District will continue to charge time and materials for the work they do to install a water meter in the line at a new customer’s property. The District says these revenues help to pay for the increases in capacity needed to add new customers in the future.
With regard to the capacity limitations, RCSD General Manager John Rogers reported to the board, he is getting a good response in his search for funding to increase the district’s capacity. To recap, three years ago the District learned it has a serious capacity shortage when Waterworks Engineering authored a capacity analysis of their system. In the summer, the water treatment facility cannot keep up with peak demand and still have adequate flow for fire safety. And in the wintertime, the sewage treatment facility gets overwhelmed by infiltration and inflow during storms. This causes the sewage treatment facility to have up to five times more dirty water to treat.
Earlier this year, Waterworks Engineering referred the District to Jim Cook a water district consultant. Cook, on behalf of the District, filed an application to the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for technical assistance funding. Ronine Lund an engineer, at the SWRCB, set up a conference call with the District, their consultants and others. Lund has referred the District to RCAC, another consulting group that helps small districts secure funding to keep their districts flowing. But so far, only the water treatment and supply are being addressed says Rogers. Another similar conference call will soon be scheduled to address the sewage treatment facility’s needs. Also, the District hopes to access California Water Bond money to improve their storage capacity, so the District can provide sufficient water to customers with less impact to the South Fork of the Eel River.
In more immediate news, the district will soon begin an education campaign for its wastewater treatment facility users. The District is finding items in the system that are not appropriate. The District wants people to remember that cleaning wipes don’t belong in the sewer, nor do toxic chemicals or compost. The new Operations Manager Cody Cox has written a letter to one neighborhood in particular to take heed because the lift station in that area has been especially impacted by items such as clothing, trash bags, and diapers.