[UPDATED to Reflect Input from Board Member] RCSD Considering a Surcharge on Ratepayers During Periods of Water Conservation
Note: This article has been corrected to note that a surcharge is being considered for all customers, not just those following mandated water conservation.
The Water Conservation Ordinance, a 25% surcharge on customers
who comply with during periods of voluntary and/or mandated water conservation, and other issues were discussed at April’s Redway Community Services District’s board meeting.
Water Conservation Ordinance
The Water Conservation Ordinance–which will stipulate when and why users should conserve water on a voluntary, mandatory and emergency basis came up for discussion at the meeting. Board Members Michael McKaskle and Scott Kender wanted to pass it while Chair Art McClure felt the March reading of the Ordinance had not been sufficient due to disagreement about the proposed Conservation Surcharge. RCSD will hold a Special Meeting to read and review the RCSD Water Conservation Ordinance on Thursday, May 16th. The Public Hearing on the Water Conservation Ordinance will be a week later on Thursday, May 23rd.
The need for a Conservation Ordinance arose three years ago with the Governor’s order during the drought. Diminishing flows in the RCSD water source, the South Fork of the Eel River, have caused General Manager John Rogers to propose the RCSD Conservation Ordinance have flexibility in beginning and ending its conservation measures on a nearly annual basis as low flows necessitate.
Those ratepayers and other interested members of the public who wish to give input can attend the special meeting on May 16th, or at the Public Hearing at the next regular board meeting on May 23rd when the Board is scheduled to vote on the Ordinance.
In April, Redway’s CSD agenda items highlighted the significant statewide problem of increasing rates and costs to ratepayers for residential water and sanitation services. At about $100.00 a month, the current cost of water and sewer is often more than 10% of the earnings for low-income residents.
For example, to increase revenue for its costs, RCSD wants all landlords to pay a new connection fee and labor and materials costs to install a separate meter for every rental unit on every property in the RCSD. The district will collect a base rate on each meter every month in addition to the water rate. The Board has initiated this policy and is working on an amnesty letter to inform landowners they can still get that work done before penalties for non-compliance begin.
Further, to avoid losing revenue when tenants walk away without paying their final bills, the RCSD Board will be reminding landlords they are responsible for any amount a tenant leaves unpaid when they move or have the water shut off due to inability to pay.
In addition, the District will remind the landowners that RCSD prohibits people from living in any house or unit within the district if they do not have RCSD water services.
Meanwhile, two members of the Board, Michael McKaskle and Scott Kender, feel strongly it is important to implement a 25% surcharge on customers
who comply with mandated conservation measures in the dry months or during drought because RCSD will lose 12% of its $45,000 a month water revenue when ratepayers fully comply with conservation measures.
When asked about the consequences of increasing water rates for the low-income residents, the Board Members say its happening everywhere in California, and Board Member Linda Sutton says its better than water being privatized.
In ongoing business, the Operations Report indicated recent storms had tested the capacity at the wastewater treatment plant with inflow and infiltration. [Both inflow and infiltration are terms to describe extra water that gets into the wastewater collection system during rainfall events.]
Inflow occurs when runoff is intentionally, although illegally, plumbed into the sewage system. Infiltration occurs when water seeps or leaks into the sewage collection piping through breaks in the District’s system.
RCSD has two ways to discharge treated wastewater. Both are legal, but one is preferable. RCSD was able to maintain the preferable method of discharging to a pond that seeps the treated water into the ground. If the volume were to overrun the percolation pond’s capacity, then treated water can be discharged straight to the river, but it’s less favorable.
General Manager, John Rogers, explained that discharging treated water through the percolation pond is the most limiting factor according to the RCSD’s capacity analysis performed when the Gyppo Ale Mill had applied for service in the RCSD. [The Gyppo Ale Mill has since moved to Shelter Cove.]
In April, the RCSD Board did not hear any news on when they might begin to apply for funding to work on increasing its wastewater treatment facility’s capacity, but in March, the RCSD Board did approve connecting an existing water customer, who has been using an existing septic tank, to RCSD’s wastewater service and encouraged the handful of neighbors to also connect to the RCSD wastewater service while the line is being laid.
In other infrastructure news, the Board discussed the solar power project to help reduce its PG&E bill which runs about $85,000 a year.
Due to PG&E program limitations, the district cannot completely offset all its energy costs. However, RCSD hopes to reduce the bill, and the carbon footprint, by about 90%.
UPDATE: During the March meeting, Board Members Kender and McKaskle had agreed that a surcharge of 25% to cover lost revenue caused by conservation measures is needed. McKaskle felt the District needed to wait to use the 218 process while Kender advocated beginning the surcharge immediately. McKaskle and Kender along with General Manager Rogers compromise the Conservation Ordinance Committee This lack of consensus in that committee led McClure, in April, to conclude the March reading of the Ordinance to be an unsatisfactory “first reading” of the proposed conservation ordinance. McClure wanted a separate meeting for the Ordinance. Sutton and GR. agreed with McClure.
The 25% surcharge has been separated from the Conservation Ordinance. The surcharge will be addressed in a separate Hearing in the future.
And Board Member McKaskle clarifies in the comment section below that all ratepayers will pay the surcharge, when and if it is enacted, during periods of conservation,not simply those who successfully conserve.