Expect water, sewer hikes
Carson City utility customers will see a 30 percent hike on their July water bill, and a 14 percent increase in their sewer bill, if officials approve the new rates at their next meeting.
The board of supervisors unanimously voted Thursday to enact the new rates. The increases will be final if they are approved after second readings in two weeks.
The biggest hit is needed to pay for a $32 million regional water pipeline between Carson City and Minden, which will supply Carson with better water quality and quantity to meet federal water quality standards and serve peak summer usage demands, said Public Works Director Andy Burnham
The only alternatives to improve water quality would have been to spend more than $40 million to build an additional arsenic treatment plant and a uranium treatment plant – which would have resulted in a 55 percent rate hike – or to spend $46 million to bring water down from Marlette Reservoir. Neither option, however, would have addressed the city’s need for more water, Burnham said.
In a split vote with Shelly Aldean and Pete Livermore opposing, supervisors chose a tiered rate structure over a flat rate in order to encourage residents to adopt more frugal watering practices and landscapes. Under the conservation-tiered option, people who use more than 50,000 gallons per month would pay a higher rate.
Resident Gil Yanuck said he did some preliminary calculations that indicated his August water bill would go from $555 last year to $893 to maintain his landscape.
“You’ve reached my threshhold,” Yanuck said. “If you enact this, my house is going on the market.”
But Burnham said the tiered rates are directed at homeowners like Yanuck, and that only 10 percent of Carson City’s 17,000 customers are at or above the 50,000-gallon level.
Supervisor Robin Williamson agreed.
“One of the reasons we need additional capacity is because of the high-end users,” she said.
David Ruf, owner of Greenhouse Garden Center, argued that his livelihood depends on keeping his plants watered, and that he works hard to be sure water isn’t wasted at his business.
“I’m a high-end user in the summer, but I use very little water in the winter, and my conservation efforts are huge,” Ruf said.
He asked if it would be possible for the city to average his payments out over the year, like the gas and electric companies do. Burnham said they could take a look at that option for him.
The 14 percent sewer rate hike is needed to raise $4 million to pay for upgrades at the wastewater reclamation plant, the Roop Street sewer line and increased operation and maintenance costs.