BRAWLEY – After a marathon three-hour hearing on the upcoming water and sewer rate increases, the council voted to postpone the rate increases and to hold another hearing on November 17.
The Tuesday, September 15 meeting was moved from council chambers to the Lion’s Center in order to accommodate an expected large crowd. There were approximately 60 people in attendance, including city staff and regular council meeting attendees.
The City of Brawley provides water and sewer services to over 5,000 customers.
The hearing is part of the Proposition 218 process that is required by California law when utility rates are to be raised.
The rates will be increased over five years, beginning October 1, 2015 with an 11% water rate increase and a 4% wastewater rate increase. The total water rate increase over the five years would be 54% and 17% for the wastewater.
The rate increases will help the city deliver water and sewer services. A study for the projected capital improvement projects determined over the next five years there are about $9 million in high-priority projects that must be addressed.
The city has a $270,000 deficit in their water rates. To be able to qualify for state grants and low-interest loans, the city must be in the black in this account. The rate increases will enable the city to raise revenue to operate water and wastewater services without a deficit.
The City of Brawley has an aging infrastructure system that is about 100 years old. The city is experiencing a waterline break almost every week. The water lines are made out of cast iron and they are deteriorating rapidly. The city has spent over $650,000 this year for various repairs.
Previous city councils have ignored the need to replace aging lines, leaving the problem for future councils.
Average rate increase for a typical single family home will be $7.00 for the water bill and $2.00 for the wastewater bill.
Brawley pays average rates for water and sewer, compared to other Valley cities, even with the proposed rate increase.
After the city laid out their case for the proposed increases, the public was invited to comment.
The comments were not in favor of the increase. Many people were concerned about those on fixed incomes. Transparency from the council was brought up.
The city sent out notices of the rate increases and the public hearings. The notices were sent to the property owners, according to California law. This left out renters who were unaware of the increases and the hearings.
The council decided that they would postpone the rate increases until a new notice could be sent out with utility bills and everyone would have the chance to attend a public hearing on the matter.
The notice will be sent out with the October 23 utility bill. The next hearing will be November 17.
“We appreciate all of the comments,” said Mayor George Nava. “We have learned a lot this evening. We will take all of the comments into consideration. Sending out the notices with the utility bills will make the process fair for all and every ratepayer will be notified.”