By Jason KUROSU
A recently proposed plan for an increase in water rates has drawn the ire of some local residents, frustrated with what they view as continuous increases from the water district. Residents attended the recent Crescenta Valley Water District board meeting Tuesday night to voice their objections to the recent planned rate hikes.
Dennis A. Erdman, general manager of CV Water District, initially spoke at the meeting, and addressing the residents’ concerns over the rates.
“It’s your system. The water system belongs to the people. It’s a public asset,” said Erdman. “We’re here to take care of it for you, to manage it the best way we can and preserve and sustain it for the future.”
The current plan to raise rates intends to make improvements to the water system, such as replacing and/or improving pipes and pumps. This “Capital Improvement Program,” or CIP, involves two primary options for raised rates: a “pay-as-you-go” option which will begin with an 8% increase in water rates starting January 2012 (and subsequent rate increases in July of the next three years) and a second option involving a $10 million bond and similar rate increases.
Erdman emphasized the continuing importance of water conservation and the continuing need to maintain Crescenta Valley’s water system.
Gesturing to a map that indicated where every segment of pipe in the water system is, Erdman said, “Those lines that are red mean there are seven leaks on that line. By the time you’ve got seven leaks on that line, you’ve invested $40,000 in repairs to that line.”
Pointing to another graph indicating number of leaks per year, Erdman said, “The average water system in the United States should have no more than 20 leaks per year. We’ve had some years that have been almost double that. In more recent years, the number of leaks per year has been around 12. That will only happen if we continue to replace aged pipelines.”
Some residents, though, said that they had heard such claims for a need to raise water rates in years past.
“Some say we pay way more for water than just about anybody in the state,” said resident Greg Wilkinson. “With most customers still in the dark about how they [the water district] just spent the last $10 million it borrowed, or how the proceeds from the last rate increase were used, they’re ready to do it again. It seems all it takes are a few bullet points on a rate hike notice to trigger another round of rate increases.
“It’s time to pay attention to your customers when we say ‘no more rate hikes’ and I would add to that ‘no more borrowing.’”
Resident Danette Erickson questioned the necessity for the rate hikes.
“I was just thinking I have a lot of things in my house, too. I’d like a new refrigerator, I’d like a new car, but they’re not broken yet. Do we really need to replace all the pipes?”
Michael Chonos, a 16 year resident of the area, listed the number of times water rate increases were a subject of discussion in past water board meeting agendas, rifling off dates that went back as far as 2006.
“This has been happening year after year after year,” said Chonos. “Let’s not let them do it again.”
The board did not settle on which option they wanted to pursue, largely because they wanted to see more comprehensive numbers detailing just how the expenses will pan out in the future. However, they did indicate that they thought the CIP was necessary.
“I believe that we need to improve the CIP,” said board Director James Bodnar. “In past years, we have put off necessary repairs.”
Board Director Ken Putnam said, “We need to look to elevate our CIP. The infrastructure will decline otherwise. We need to replace infrastructure to keep up reliability.”