“I respectfully ask that you allow a two-week extension because we need to understand the details a little bit more,” said Susan Qualls, who presented the board with a petition signed by residents protesting the rate increase. Including Quall’s protest sheet, the town received a total of 157 confirmed protest signatures. A little more than 2,500 names were required for the protest to succeed.
The increase drew harsh criticism from residents who said the hike was little more than a thinly veiled attempt to place the cost of a new water well – some say to support future development – on the backs of ratepayers.
Discovery Bay General Manager Rick Howard contends that the inclusion of a new well (well 7) is designed to meet current deficiencies in the existing water distribution system.
“While the final decision to build an additional water source has yet to be determined,” said Howard, “my primary responsibility is to ensure a long-term, sustainable water source for the community. The long-term benefit of a new well to current residents is twofold: one, it meets a current supply deficit, and two, it increases the overall reliability of the district’s existing water supply system.”
But some residents weren’t buying it.
“You’ve got no one in favor of this,” said resident Michael Greggans. “You don’t need this well right now. I just think you are pro-builder.”
“I think it’s ridiculous to ask for that kind of money right now,” added resident Ray Qualls. “We need to look at what our requirements are for right now and maintain what we have. We just don’t have the money.”
David Lennon of the Hofmann Company was concerned that the increases might not be high enough. “I actually believe the rates (increase) are too low,” said Lennon, who added that residents could rest assured that future developers who came to town would pay their fair share of the water costs. “I believe your rates could and should be higher.”
The rate increases were based on a two-year ratepayer study that included projected needs for operating expenses, capital improvements and replacement funding.
Based on the current plan, non-metered residential users with a single-family lot size of 5,000 to 10,000 square feet will pay a combined monthly water and wastewater charge of $79.68 this year and a possible $94.81 the following year.
For metered residential homeowners – roughly 1,900 in Discovery Bay – the average rate will be $76.92 for blended water and wastewater use for this year and $90.47 in 2012-13.
The rate increase for this fiscal year – effective immediately – comes to nearly $140 more annually per dwelling and a possible additional $185 the following year if approved by the board.
While Simon agreed with the rest of the board that the 17-percent increase was a necessary evil for this year, he said that his no-vote was for the 2012-13 fiscal year and the construction of well 7.
“Seventeen percent is a legitimate increase,” said Simon. “But I am dead against what is in the coming year … I agree 100 percent that we don’t need the well, but that’s not up to me.”
Director Ray Tetreault reminded the public that the 2012-13 proposed increase is the most the board can raise the rates. “The second year is the maximum, but we have no idea what that number will be until we do the budget for next year,” said Tetreault. “This year the 17 percent is needed for our current requirements – to run the district as we are now.”
“We are elected to make the right decisions, not necessarily the popular ones,” said Vice President Brian Dawson. “No one wants a rate increase – we pay it, too – but it’s what is needed.”