Without a majority protest at the March 19 public hearing, Measure I’s proposed water rates were officially passed. Water rates are expected to be tripled by 2018, and the increased rates will help fund the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project.
The project, supplying Woodland and Davis with drinking water from the Sacramento River, is estimated to cost $113 million for the City of Davis, making for a combined $245 million for both cities.
“The project will give city residents a supplemental water supply so they are not just relying on groundwater,” said Herb Niederberger, the City of Davis general manager of development, utilities and operations. “Groundwater contains many elements, so surface water is a cleaner option.”
The project includes construction, operation and maintenance of a water intake facility, a water treatment facility and pipelines. These would be owned and operated by the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency.
Rates will rise starting May 1 and will be raised differently depending on income levels. The first increase will be 5 percent and the next, in January 2014, will be 20 percent.
Niederberger said that for an average single-family home in Davis, the rate will be increased to $31. The next raise in January 2014 would make the water bill $36. By Jan. 1, 2018, the rate for an average single family home is expected to be $98.27.
The City of Davis offers a calculator tool in which residents can estimate how much their rates will be increased based on their individual situations. It can be found on the City of Davis’ website.
The water project was approved by 54.1 percent of those who voted in the March 5 election. However, Proposition 218 requires a hearing to see if a majority protest still exists; over half of the city’s 16,500 ratepayers would have had to protest in order to prevent the rates from increasing.
There were still a few people who came to the public hearing to voice their concerns over the rate increase.
“I’m here to ask you to reconsider the proposed water project and the water rates change,” said John Munn, supporter of No on Measure I and the former president of the Yolo County Taxpayers Association. “Many residents of Davis cannot afford to have their water rates tripled. And for each issue we have looked at specifically, it’s just not necessary.”
The Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services are challenging the current water rates in a lawsuit filed against the city. The suit claims that the current rates violate Prop. 218.
Prop. 218 was brought into question during the public hearing when some residents felt that the protest process was flawed and should be reviewed for future rate increases.
“I hope that the next time, the city pays attention to real democratic local process, and regardless of your position on issues, that you take this very seriously to set an example and to model how democracy should operate in this city,” said Davis resident Nancy Price at the hearing.
Price is also one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit.
Mayor Joe Krovoza said at the hearing that he supports the project fully because it will help Davis in the future.
“The proponents of this project have helped us create a much, much better system for the City of Davis,” Krovoza said at the hearing. “They should be proud and this mayor and, I think, this council as a whole is very thankful.”
Additionally, the Davis City Council voted on March 19 to approve a water fee assistance program for homeowners. The new Lifeline Water Utility Rate Assistance program will help about 250 qualifying residents with about $120 per year in rate assistance.
Kelly Stachowicz, City of Davis deputy city manager, said that city officials are aiming to have the program ready by the time the rate increases begin in May.
In order to qualify, residents have to be accepted into the Pacific Gas and Electric company’s (PG&E) California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program. Residents have to have a combined gross income at or lower than the amounts required by the CARE program. A random lottery will decide who gets accepted into the program, with a first-come, first-served basis.
According to a staff report submitted to council members, the program will be funded by the fees from late utility ratepayers. The council also requested staff to ask ratepayers for donations when paying monthly utility bills.
“I respect the views of folks who did not agree with Measure I and who protested the rates tonight [at the public hearing], but I am grateful that Measure I did pass; I think it’s very important for our community,” said Davis Mayor Pro Tempore Dan Wolk.
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