Utility rate hike to take effect in July | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Utility rate hike to take effect in July

The South Tahoe Public Utilities District approved a rate increase May 17, to make sure the water keeps running.

STUPD customers can expect their water bills to go up an average of $1.10 and an additional 46 cents for sewer service. The new rates will go into effect July 1.

STUPD public information officer Dennis Cocking said some of the fees will pay for work on water and sewer lines that need continual maintenance to ensure they remain in working order.

“Water and sewage are basic services, probably the most basic of all utilities, but it does require a significant amount of infrastructure,” Cocking said. “The district has a priority out on maintaining our investment. Maintaining our infrastructure.”

According to Cocking, maintaining utility pipes is especially important in Tahoe because of the potential for an environmental disaster.

“If we have a sewer spill it is major news,” Cocking said. “The stakes are so much higher because we have to worry about contaminating Lake Tahoe, and if you do that the consequences are pretty serious. We don’t want to wait until the thing fails.”

Rates went up by a similar margin last year. Cocking said frequent small rate increases are a more prudent option than maintaining a flat rate. He said not keeping up on maintenance could lead to large rate increases.

“The district’s philosophy is we would rather give small incremental rate increases over time as opposed to trying to keep rates flat and then at some point in time be faced with huge repair costs and then customers could be faced with a 10 or 20 percent rate increase,” Cocking said.

STUPD customers face extra utility costs because STUPD is required to export recycled water out of the Tahoe Basin, unlike most utility districts.

“Since 1968 we have exported all of our recycled water to Alpine County,” Cocking said. “A third of every STUPD fee can be attributed to the export of the recycled water. Most agencies in California don’t have that cost because they don’t have to export.”

Cocking said STUPD welcomes public input at their board meetings, though few community members attended the May 17 meeting.

“It is a little frustrating for us why there weren’t more people at this budget hearing,” Cocking said. “The district goes over and above to let people know about the budget process. We take out ads that we run two or more times advertising that we are having a public hearing and we welcome community input from the public. We try to go down that road as much as we can and we still only had 5 people attend. “

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