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Board floats sewer-rate hike

Sanitation District board introduces ordinance endorsing rate increases

Posted: April 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Sewer rates are likely going up, following a decision by the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board of directors Thursday night.

After an hourlong public hearing at Santa Clarita City Hall that attracted less than a dozen citizens, the three-member board introduced an ordinance to endorse the district’s proposed rate hikes.

The same board is expected to adopt the ordinance with a vote when it meets again, sometime between now and the end of June, with the new rates taking effect July 1.

The district wants to raise rates to pay for its day-to-day operations, which include undertaking capital projects.

A ratepayer — defined by the district as a single-family home of three occupants — pays $199 a year.  Under the proposed rate hike, that ratepayer would pay: $215 in 2011-12; $231 in 2012-13; and $247 in 2013-14.

Among residents offering comments on the proposed rate hikes was Al Ferdman, president of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee.

Board members said they particularly liked his suggestion on recycling water.

“We cannot separate current-user rates and expansion plans from the chloride issue,” he told the board.

“I would like to suggest that we consider reducing the output of our (water-reclamation plants) into the river to the absolute minimum required, and then look at the costs related to recycling the remaining output for use in both commercial and residential landscaping bills.”

Steve Maguin, the Sanitation District’s assistant chief engineer and assistant general manager who explained the district’s costs and needs to the board, also said he and his staff have also been looking at ways to enhance its water-recycling system.

Thursday’s meeting followed eight similar meetings in which district officials outlined water-treatment plans and problems.

As was stressed many times throughout the meeting, the proposed rate hikes discussed have nothing to do with the issue of addressing chloride content in discharged water.

Removing chloride — a naturally occurring salt — from Santa Clarita Valley’s discharged water became a hotly debated topic last summer, when downstream Ventura County farmers said it was damaging to their crops.

The cost of removing chloride could be $500 million, SCV residents were told. The bill would have to be paid by local water users.

The issue of possibly raising rates again to meet chloride reducing concerns is something to be addressed in the near future, board members said.

The district’s cash reserves have been depleted, so rates must be raised to reflect the full cost of services, according to the district’s website.

To minimize the impact, the board has opted to temporarily borrow money from the Capital Improvement Fund. The district anticipates borrowing about $5 million in the upcoming fiscal year 2011-12.

The borrowed money will have to be repaid “with interest” before the next treatment-plant expansions are needed, according to the district.

The ratepayers would pay it back.


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