Somer­ton holds hear­ing on pro­posed util­ity rate hikes


SOMER­TON – Somer­ton res­i­dents will have a chance Tues­day to com­ment on a pro­posal to raise city wa­ter and sewer rates.

The city has sched­uled a pub­lic hear­ing for 7 p.m. at Somer­ton City Hall, 143 N. State Ave., to hear res­i­dents’ view on rec­om­mended hikes.

Based on a con­sul­tant’s study, the city is look­ing at a pro­posal to in­crease the base wa­ter rate for res­i­dences from $11.50 to $15.91 over a five-year pe­riod, and to raise the monthly sewer rate from $38.50 to $48.86 over the same pe­riod.

The in­creases are aimed at rais­ing enough money through rates to cover the city’s full cost of wa­ter and sewer ser­vices. At present the util­i­ties are sub­si­dized from the city’s gen­eral fund.

Mayor Ger­ardo Anaya and city coun­cil mem­bers say they are hop­ing for a large turnout on Tues­day.

“It’s im­por­tant that the com­mu­nity come to the hear­ing be­cause they are go­ing to see the sit­u­a­tion with the wa­ter and sewer funds,” Anaya said. “The (pro­posed) ad­just­ments to the rates is some­thing that we are go­ing to look at closely be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion. We know the im­pact it would have for all of the peo­ple.”

Rev­enue raised by the cur­rent wa­ter rates falls short of the city’s ac­tual cost of pro­vid­ing wa­ter ser­vice by more than $195,000 an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the study by Will­dan con­sult­ing firm.

But apart from mak­ing wa­ter ser­vice fi­nan­cially self-suf­fi­cient, the rate in­crease would pro­vide money to­ward an es­ti­mated $2.2 mil­lion in re­pair and main­te­nance work the city says must be per­formed on the wa­ter sys­tem.

Wa­ter and sewer rates charged Somer­ton busi­nesses would also go up, un­der the con­sul­tant’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

But Coun­cil­man Miguel Vil­lal­pando said the coun­cil will con­tinue to look at other op­tions to the rec­om­mended hikes.

“Our re­spon­si­bil­ity is to look at what are the real needs and not just the wishes of the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said. “... what re­mains to be seen is if those needs can be paid for with an­other type of fund­ing.”

Al­though the coun­cil could vote as soon as Tues­day on the rec­om­mended hikes, Anaya has pro­posed that the coun­cil post­pone a de­ci­sion pend­ing the hir­ing of a new city fi­nance di­rec­tor, who, he said, could take a fresh look at the util­ity fund bal­ances and who might have a dif­fer­ent plan for elim­i­nat­ing the short­fall. Somer­ton has been with­out a fi­nance di­rec­tor since Oc­to­ber, when Ralph Villa was fired.

In any event, Anaya said, res­i­dents should at­tend the pub­lic hear­ing “so that they are well in­formed about why this is be­ing done.

“The last thing we want is for peo­ple to be sur­prised. We are go­ing to be trans­par­ent through­out the process.”

The last time the city in­creased its wa­ter and sewer rates was 2007.


CON­SUL­TANT DAN JACK­SON PRESENTS A STUDY to the Somer­ton City Coun­cil rec­om­mend­ing wa­ter and sewer rate hikes.

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