To prevent the tiered increase of $50 per year over the next five years, opponents of the hike were required to file protests from 51 percent of the district's approximately 6,000 customers.
"We know that there are people who are unhappy" with the rate hike, acknowledged Ironhouse General Manager Tom Williams in a phone interview. "But we do have to secure Oakley's future for the next 20 years when it comes to wastewater, and we want people to know that everyone is going to be paying their fair share."
Oakley and Bethel Island residents currently pay $412 annually for sewage treatment. That fee will increase about $50 a year for the next five years, capping out at $680 per year. After that, rates will be reevaluated each year and assessed according to the district's needs, he said.
Oakley resident Bob Brown remains unconvinced that the rate increase is a fair deal. "To me this is taxation without any kind of representation at all," said Brown. "It's that simple. I believe the decision should have been put on a ballot so the whole public could vote. I'm disappointed, to say the least."
Williams said it was heartening to see the community participate at last week's meeting, even if they were there to oppose what the district was planning to do.
"It was very nice to have some of our ratepayers in the board room talking with our directors and expressing their concerns," said Williams. "Very rarely do we see ratepayers at our meetings, and it would be nice for folks to attend on a regular basis to better understand how Ironhouse works as a whole."
The new facility will sit on approximately 18 acres of Ironhouse property, just east of the current 10-acre sewage treatment plant site. It will also use nearly 50 acres of storage ponds for the treated effluent.
The first $50 rate increase will take effect July 1.
The Ironhouse Sanitary District Board meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at the district offices, 450 Walnut Meadows Drive in Oakley. For more information, call 625-2279 or visit www.ironhousesanitarydistrict.com.