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Carson City water rate hikes one step closer

The Board of Supervisors took the next step to raising water, stormwater and wastewater rates next year.

The board approved a business impact statement required to change the rates as well as the first reading of an ordinance that will now refer to a separate rate schedule.

Thursday’s vote was 3-1 with Acting Mayor Brad Bonkowski voting no on the ordinance’s first reading.

In the past, rates for all kinds of Carson City services have been outlined in ordinance, which means ordinances have to be amended or redone to change rates.

This is the first of what is a planned move to specify city service fees in separate rate schedules, which can be revised instead of redoing ordinances.

Dan Yu, assistant district attorney and counsel to the board, reassured supervisors that under state law the new policy still results in a public process requiring business impact statements and board approval to change rates.

If the ordinance is passed on second reading, water service fees will increase by 3 percent and wastewater rates by 3.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2021 and July 1 for the next four years. Stormwater rates will be restructured, including tiered rates for both residential and commercial users, and raised on Jan. 1 for the next four years.

The monthly stormwater rates for the three residential tiers will be $6.29, $7.96, and $8.79, with increases phased in over three years ending at $7.40, $12.50, and $15, respectively.

Much of the board discussion concerned the Utility Rate Assistance Program, which will be funded by both donations and by the utility funds to help low-income ratepayers with their utility bills.

The discussion was whether to maintain reserves in the fund, but the board decided that the program could be quickly funded as needs arose.

“Raising rates is never easy,” but a duty of the board to ensure the safety of the city’s infrastructure, said Mayor-elect Lori Bagwell.

The board, during its standing item on the COVID-19 response, discussed concerns about the outbreak at Warm Springs Correctional Center, which is affecting staff there who live in the city as well as inmates.

There were also outbreaks at three long-term care facilities in town, Nicki Aaker, director, Carson City Health and Human Services, told the board. The combined outbreaks accounted for 52 percent of the 259 new cases reported in the two-week period between Nov. 1-14. Eight individuals were hospitalized in that time.

“As we go into the Thanksgiving holiday we’ve all had to make really hard decisions,” said Aaker, who said her family consisting of five households will not be celebrating together.

The board also scheduled a show cause hearing on Dec. 17 for revocation of Sparks-based Environmental Resources, Inc.’s Carson City business license. The city said the business has been selling equipment that does not meet fire code and poses a fire risk to local restaurants.

The supervisors also approved a $125,000 settlement with Grace Doe, who threatened to bring legal action against the city for minor Jane Doe, concerning a 2016 incident alleging assault by a volunteer working for a city-operated summer camp program.

“I want to express how deeply sorry we are,” said Bonkowksi, who said changes were made to the program immediately. “The safety of our children will always be a top priority.”