Water Company proposes rate increases | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water Company proposes rate increases

Isaac Brambila

The Lukins Brothers Water Company, which serves roughly 950 customers in South Lake Tahoe, has requested authority from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to increase water rates by 55.6 percent in 2015.

The increase, according to a notice the water company sent to its customers, will be used to offset increased operating costs that have grown since the company’s last general increase in 2009.

Those costs include health insurance for employees, vehicle maintenance and the cost and water system upgrades, among others.

One of the most significant increases have been the costs for health insurance policies for employees, which have risen I the last couple of years, Lukins said.

The company is also making changes in anticipation of obligated changes in the system from flat rates to metered rates, which have to be completed by 2025. Currently, about 90 percent of the company’s customers receive a flat-rate service and the remainder receives metered service.

Employee wages have also increased, especially when trying to recruit qualified employees, Lukins said.

Lukins said that a recent detection of levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in the water system exceeding EPA maximum levels, which will likely generate added expenses, were not related to the rate increase request. She said the water company is attempting to acquire grants that will help cover the costs associated with the PCE levels in the water and try to avoid passing the costs to the customers.

In regard to what the rate changes will represent for the company’s customers, the flat rate for a single-family homes would increase from $109.25 to $167.52 per quarter, according to the notice. The private fire protection service would increase from $100.76 to $154.50.

For hotels, apartment and motels, the rates would see the same change as single family homes for the first unit. Additional units will spike from $54.63 to $83.76.

Monthly service charges for metered customers would rise from $35.93 to $55.10 for customers with 1-inch meter, the most common.

The commodity charge per 100 cubic feet would increase from $1.63 to $2.51.

Before a rate increase can be implemented, CPUC staff needs to conduct an investigation of the utility’s request. Following the investigation, the commission may grant the utility’s request in whole or in part, or may deny it. The commission could also order different charge rates than the ones proposed by the water company. In order for the rate increase to be approved, the commission must find that the increase is justified.

The Lukins Brothers Water Company, along with the CPUC, will hold a public meeting on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at the City of South Lake Tahoe Chambers, located at 1901 Airport Road. During the meeting, the water company will explain the reasons behind the increases and will provide a forum where the public will be able to ask questions or comment on the situation.

Additionally, the public can send a response or a protest to the notice issued by the water company no later than Oct. 23, when the notice was first issued.

A response is defined as a document that does not object to the authority sought, but presents information that would be useful to the commission while acting on the request.

Protests must state facts constituting the ground for the protest, the effect that approval of the proposal might have on the protestant and the reasons the protestant believes the advice letter or part of it is not justified.

Both types of document should be sent to the CPUC and the Lukins Brothers Water Company, Inc. to the following addresses:

California Public Utilities Commission Water Utilities Division, Room 3106 505 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, Ca 94102. They can be emailed to water_division@cpuc.ca.gov or faxed to (415) 703-2655.

They should also be sent to Jennifer Lukins at Lukins Brothers Company, Inc. 2031 West Way Lake Tahoe, Calif. 96150.

If a reply is not received within 10 days of sending the documents, people can contact Jennifer Lukins at (530) 541-2606.

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