Utility district to conduct rate study to keep prices down
Big changes are expected at the start of the new millennium, and among them may be local sewage rates.
The Board of Directors of the South Tahoe Public Utility District unanimously approved hiring a firm to conduct a cost-of-service and rate study. The study, which will include an analysis of connection fees, will develop rate structure for 1999 and recommended rates for the years 2000-2003.
“Why is this important?” asked Diane Noble, STPUD customer services manager, to the board of directors. “It’s for fairness, essentially for fairness. It also avoids rate shock. I have heard some businesses getting a 40-percent increase in their wastewater prices. It is important to associate the rate with the actual costs.”
Currently, the sewage rate charges are based upon “sewage units,” or dischargers of waste, such as each toilet. A typical single-family home with one or two bathrooms requires three sewer units. The current charge per unit, billed quarterly each year, is $87.92. Connection fees, which have remained unchanged since 1989, cost $2,000. A typical single-family home with one or two bathrooms requires three units at a cost of $6,000. This billing structure has served the district for the past 30 years.
Charging by the sewer unit does not come without its problems. Because of the connection fees, smaller home owners are hesitant to add an additional bathroom. Putting in a third bathroom, or even an extra half-bath in an existing home or new home has a $2,000 price tag. This has outraged many of the local builders who argue that people, not bathrooms, generate wastewater flows.
“Right now it is based on bathroom connections. But is it fair to charge a single woman with five bathrooms, with her children grown up, more than college students in a studio?” asked Dawn Forsythe, STPUD public information officer, adding that one possibility could be the installation of water meters, which currently is the case in the Midwest.
The proposals from private firms are due to the district by Aug. 17. By Sept. 17, officials with STPUD are expected make a recommendation to the board of directors.
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