Skepticism, Concern Over New Water Rate Structure


Glendale Water & Power (GWP) is taking its new water rate structure on the road. And if their first public outreach meeting, which was held Wednesday night at the Sparr Heights Community Center, is any indication, they’re going to be facing some tough crowds.

Raised eyebrows and frustrated outbursts met the efforts of GWP and city staff to educate local residents on the intricacies of a new water rate structure plan being promoted by the utility.

When City Manager Scott Ochoa answered a resident’s concern about development by saying there was “no overdevelopment,” he was loudly jeered.

“[The city] is not being aggressive with this issue,” said Santo Marino. “[Added residents] are going to be using more water. Out of necessity there is going to more water usage. The city is just becoming too crowded.”

He countered Ochoa’s assertion that development was being confined to a small portion of the city centered on downtown.

“One very specific [example of development] to our area is on the corner entrance to the westbound side of the 210 Freeway off of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Marino added.

The new plan being promoted follows a previous structure plan that ended in failure when city staff discovered grave errors in the plan devised by Willdan Financial Services of Temecula. The structure that they originally proposed would have increased the monthly bill of an average single-family customer currently paying $72.12 by approximately 11% next fiscal year to $79.83. Annual increases of approximately 5%, 4%, 5% and 5% over the following four years would be effected. By fiscal year 2018–19, that same customer would be paying $95.34.

Instead, single, multi-family, and commercial customers were being undercharged, resulting in a loss of $8.8 million from those customers alone.

A new rate plan, this time by Bartle Wells of Berkeley, has been adopted by the city.

Glendale City Council last month approved a 20.4% cap on rate increases that can be adjusted downward when the council votes on new water rates next month. They cannot, however, go over that percentage.

“Now we’re correcting that mistake,” said director of GWP Steve Zurn. “In our haste, the consultant we [first] hired made a bonehead mistake … But we have got to move forward.”

City staff said that the structure was going to be a bitter pill that, if not swallowed, would have worse consequences for Glendale and the GWP in the future.

“We already have a negative cash balance,” said the city’s director of Finance Bob Elliot. “That’s not going to be looked on favorably by credit rating companies. Long term, there will be issues if we’re downgraded. It would certainly affect our ability to revamp our capital infrastructure. GWP would pretty much be stagnant.”

Another public outreach meeting is scheduled for tonight, Thursday, June 5 at the Community Room at the Glendale Police Headquarters at 131 N. Isabel St. in Glendale.