Residents speak out against proposed water rate increases

OCEANSIDE — Residents were not happy to hear about proposed water and wastewater rate increases presented at a community forum on Sept. 29, and they let Metropolitan Water District representatives know it.
“We’re pissed the rates are going up,” Councilman Rocky Chavez said. “To increase rates at this time is just not acceptable.”
“The community down here is just outraged,” Gary Felien, treasurer for the city of Oceanside, said. “The people in these tough economic times just can’t afford any water rate increase that isn’t justified by necessity.”
The Metropolitan Water District supplies close to 80 percent of Oceanside’s water, leaving consumers with little choice but to pay the increase.
“Citizens don’t have a choice,” Lloyd Prosser, an Oceanside resident, said. “Metropolitan (Water District) and the (San Diego County) Water Authority are truly monopolies. They can operate like a private business without any competition. There’s no recourse and so it’s very frustrating.”
Council will vote on one of four increase options Oct. 14. Water bills for a single family residence will rise $6.35 to $10.43 a month and wastewater bills will increase by $4.96 to $14.82 a month. The costlier options will allow greater debt cover and project funding. The minimum increases will simply cover the increase in pass-though charges billed by the Metropolitan Water District.
Most of the questions asked by those attending the forum focused on the Metropolitan Water District recent salary and concessions negotiation, although the added cost only accounts for an additional $2 charge per household per year.
According to the Metropolitan Water District, the drought and environmental restrictions that limit how and when water can be collected are the main factors that are driving up rates.
There was little discussion of the drought in California or the fact that Oceanside has already developed a 20 percent local water supply.
“I believe the water shortage is one of the most critical things facing the state of California,” Brian Thomas, chief financial officer for the Metropolitan Water District, said. “The more people can learn about what we need to do to solve water issues in the state the better off we’re all going to be.”
Developing additional local water sources is essential, but does not bring down the rate paid to the Metropolitan Water District.
“We are essentially a fixed-cost business,” Thomas said. “It’s the worst message and I can’t figure out a good way to say it, I’m asking you to conserve water and you have to pay more to do that.”
See video from the forum at www.coastnewsgroup.com.

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