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Cloverdale water bills expected to jump to $91

Consultants recommend bump to upgrade water and sewer systems

Published: Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 7:45 a.m.

Cloverdale residents enjoy the lowest water and sewer rates in Sonoma County, but it won't last much longer.

Facts

WHO PAYS WHAT

Typical monthly single-family water and sewer bills
Cloverdale, $59
Ukiah, $78
Windsor, $88
Rohnert Park, $89
Cotati, $92
Petaluma, $96
Sonoma, $106
Sebastopol, $111
Santa Rosa, $116
Healdsburg, $137
Source: The Reed Group Inc.

City consultants are recommending a 67 percent increase in water rates and 25 percent for wastewater.

The increases, which could go into effect as soon as April, would raise the typical residential combined monthly bill from the current $59 to $91.

The proposed hike was discussed at last week's City Council meeting, although further public hearings will be held before any increases are adopted.

"A lot of residents showed up very concerned, opposed to the radical increases and questioning the need for the increases," said Mayor Joe Palla.

Palla noted that it has been more than seven years since the last rate increase.

Meanwhile, other cities have raised their rates.

Healdsburg has the highest monthly water and sewer bill at $137, followed by Santa Rosa at $116, according to the Reed Group consultants.

The second lowest rate in Sonoma County, after Cloverdale, is Windsor at $78.

Consultants said the increases are needed for maintenance and system upgrades. In addition to the steep increase this year, they recommend 5 percent increases every year through July 2016.

"There is a critical need for large water and sewer rate increases to avoid the water and sewer funds from exhausting all funds in (fiscal year) 2013/14," Public Works Director Craig Scott wrote in his summary to the City Council.

Cloverdale has experienced ongoing problems with its municipal wells along the Russian River.

Peak demand on hot days last year came close to overtaxing the system's ability to deliver to the city's 8,629 residents.

The limited production led city officials to ask residents to refrain from outdoor water use every other day.

The city is moving to develop new wells and also to upgrade its pipelines, tanks and distribution system, using state and federal loans and grants.

The various water capital projects total almost $10 million.

A study identified $6.5 million in sewer collection system rehabilitation and improvement projects, but that has been scaled back to $2 million for the next five years.

Palla said none of the improvements is for future growth, but to upgrade old infrastructure and equipment.

He said rates have been the same since July 2005, and probably are overdue for an increase.

"It should have been done sooner. Unfortunately, it wasn't," he said, noting that Cloverdale citizens "have been paying a lot less than all the residents in other cities for a long time."

At a public hearing probably sometime in March, he said, the council "will take information, answer questions and try to figure out the next step."

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

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