OCEANSIDE — Despite cuts in department operation costs and ongoing development of local water sources, water and sewage rates will increase for Oceanside ratepayers in January.
City Council voted on Oct. 17 to approve rate increases 4-1. Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no.
The OK by council means the average family of four will have to tack on an extra $4.01 a month to their water bill and $2.71 a month to their sewage bill.
There was lengthy discussion on why water and sewage rates continued to rise.
Water Utilities Director Cari Dale said 46 percent of water costs are paid to the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District for the supply and transportation of water.
The high water transportation costs for San Diego County cities is being disputed in court. Hopes are this portion of the bill will be lowered when pending lawsuits against the Metropolitan Water District are settled.
One unwelcome cause for higher wastewater rates for Oceanside residents is the environmental mitigation surcharge added to bills to pay for the Haymar Road sewer line break in December 2010.
The amount of the fine is still being determined. It is estimated the city will be charged $1.5 million. Payment is due in a year.
It is likely that half of the fine charges can be put towards a city environmental project as payment.
In order to pay for the fine households will be charged 55 cents per unit of water consumption. This amount will be adjusted if the total fine is less than anticipated.
A request was made by the senior community to reduce the monthly amount ratepayers are billed and spread the charge over two years.
“The mitigation fee alone will cause us to raise rates $4 per home,” Kay Parker, member of the Oceana No. 3 homeowners association, said. “It’s quite a load to put on at one time. Seniors on a fixed income are not able to absorb the transition.”
To meet the one-year payment deadline the amount ratepayers are charged can only be reduced if the total fine is reduced.
There were additional comments from Councilmen Jerry Kern and Gary Felien on a previous vote by Mayor Jim Wood, Sanchez and former Councilman Chuck Lowery to postpone spending funds to fix an exposed pipe that eventually broke.
“I’m upset to have to pay at all,” Kern said. “It’s the failure of the previous council. Six months later the pipe broke. Council majority at that time said ‘roll the dice.’”
Kern and Councilman Jack Feller had previously voted to OK funds.