Hydesville Water District Changes Rates
Hydesville Community Water District, which serves 400 meters, raised the rates to its ratepayers after a hearing on the 12th of September. The base rates will rise on a schedule of $2 a year over the next five years. The base rate has been equivalent to $35 a month. By 2022, that base rate will be $40 a month. Though, Hydesville saves money on postage and staff time by reading meters and sending the bills out bi-monthly, or once every two months.
The other change involved introducing a third tier of billing.
In Hydesville, the base rate covers the first 750 cubic feet of water a month…roughly 185 gallons a day. Previous to the hearing, all additional water was $4.00 for every 100 cubic feet.
The changes enacted Tuesday the 12th establish a third tier on meters that log over 4900 cu ft. in a billing cycle. Beginning in December, the water will be $5.00 per 100 cubic feet on usage between 1600 to 4900 cubic feet. And the fee will now be $8/ for every 100 cubic feet over 4900 cubic feett in a single billing period. The billing is tiered. Customers pay the lower rate for the first 4900 cubic feet, and the higher rate for the amount over that.
At the September 12th meeting, the manager’s report indicates the current demand to the system is about 130,000 gallons a day. This averages to about 325 gallons a day per meter.
Before the hearing, a reader wrote in to kymkemp.com and expressed concerns. The note said in part:
“The reason for the [changes] in my mind are they are turning a community water system into an [agricultural] water system. Every grower will be taxing the system and we have a relatively small system.”
The Board Members each said that the opposite was true in their minds. The stated intention behind increasing the price of water for larger volume users is to encourage water conservation and help ensure more water remain available to the residential customers. One Board Member (who had been the District’s Manager before his retirement) explained many customers in Hydesville have small agriculture such as gardens, horses, sheep and other livestock. The Hydesville water system, he said, has plenty of capacity to accommodate this, but the District does worry about increasing demand that may arrive from permitted cannabis cultivation. The demand has not yet changed significantly, but the District doesn’t know what may come with time.
Two rate-payers of the Hydesville Community Water District (HCWD) were present for the Hearing. They each voiced concerns about changes that were being made and other issues as well.
The first man said he has “a bigger yard than most” that he likes to keep green. He said he didn’t “like being lumped in with the pot growers.” He felt it would be better to have commercial and residential rates priced differently. Alternatively, he said he wished the tier changed at 55 acre feet because then he would not feel the price increase. He said “I’d hate to have to pay $400 to keep a green lawn.”
The Board rejected both options. The Chairman said “I understand, but if we get too carried away with individualized programs, I don’t think it would work,” The idea of “more tiers was discussed but it’s a bookkeeping nightmare.”
The Board explained that it looked at the district overall and determined this to be the best solution after “laboring over this” during a series of Board meetings. The 4,900 cu ft point places about 1% of the customers in the higher bracket, and the Board hopes to encourage those customers to conserve their water use. The Board indicated this process began as a result of the drought.
This man also asked how the Board determined how much to raise the rates. His written letter says “The HCWD does not offer a display of the effects of the rate increase…on the operating budget with and without the proposed increase….It is not possible to effectively comment on the implementation of the current proposal…without any supporting figures or documentation.”
He did not receive specific facts and figures, but was given anecdotal evidence of the need for increased revenue. The District began operation in 1964 and needs to replace the original, now decaying, main line down Highway 36 and needs to remodel its office bathroom so that it comes into ADA compliance. A phone conversation with the manager after the meeting indicates the District did work with the Rural Community Assistance Program to assess its fixed and variable costs and study what revenue it needs to stay solvent.
The other ratepayer at the hearing said the “lack of access to information about the district” is a concern for him. The district’s website has not been updated since 2012. One cannot even get the time and day of the next board meeting nor its agenda from the district without going to the local post office or the water district building where the agenda, but no additional material, is posted. Nor does the outgoing phone message offer the date of the next scheduled meeting.
The Board and staff amiably offered to give him any information he requested, but there was no more direct opportunity offered, such as uploading documents to the web-page.
This man also requested an annualized amount of water be made available for the base rate because he uses more water in the summer than the base rate allows, but is well under the allotment in the winter months. He reasoned that the electricity for pumping and treating water are not more costly in the summer than the winter. The Board empathized, but deferred to the need for simplicity in the billing and rate structure.
And finally he expressed concern about the Board’s decision, made at some point in recent months, to convert to radio meters. He pointed out the controversy PG&E faced when they opted to go with the “smart” meters. He asked about the cost of installing these, and why the District was doing so without informing the ratepayers. The Board stood by their decision because of the increased accuracy of the new meters and the decreased staff time needed to read them. The new meters are accurate to one cubic foot of water, where the old ones are only accurate to 100 cubic feet. And the Board explained the old ones are wearing out and need to be upgraded. With regard to informing ratepayers, one Board Member said “the meters belong to” the District.
The Board passed the rate and rate structure changes. The three Board Members present all voted aye. Two members were absent. By 2022, Hydesville ratepayers will be charged $80 every other month for a base rate that includes 1500 cubic feet of water for the two month period. If they use more, the fee will be $5 per 100 cubic feet up to 4900 cubic feet, and $8/ 100 cubic ft for usage over that amount in the bi-monthly billing cycle. Therefor, a person using 5400 cubic feet (about 675 gallons a day) will be paying about $300 per billing period. The person who uses 185 gallons a day or less will pay $40 a month. And for 300 gallons a day, the assessment will be about $160 for the billing period. There is no developed waste-water treatment in the Hydesville District.
After the hearing, the regular business of the Board included:
- contracting with a dive team to examine the inside of the District’s two storage tanks for $2,750;
- determining that a customer on Rhonerville Road, who needs a third meter, will have to finance an upgrade to a two inch line, on the District’s side of the meter, to accommodate her increased service without diminishing service levels to others in her neighborhood;
- determining that a man who has built a new house on his property may use the old meter, avoiding a new connection fee, if he follows through with his plans of demolishing the old house;
- approving the purchase of a fire hydrant flow tester for about $1,200;
- postponing the purchase of a new “blow off valve” for a lateral line which may cost as much as $2,000;
- determining it has no objection, to the Planning Department, of the lot line adjustment of a church as it acquires a small lot from its neighbor;
- and determining that it also has no objection to a permitted cannabis grow within its district boundaries now that the applicant has drilled a permitted well for the agricultural water. The District will continue to provide residential water to the home on the property. The District had previously objected to the cannabis farm when the District was needed for the water supply.