Water rates to rise in some Douglas neighborhoods | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water rates to rise in some Douglas neighborhoods

Sara Thompson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Next month Skyland, Cave Rock and Uppaway residents will see their water rates increase.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved the rate increase, which takes effect in August.

Skyland’s water rates will go from $74.70 to $114.23 per month, and rates for Cave Rock and Uppaway will increase from $135.28 to $180.82 per month, said Carl Ruschmeyer, public works director.

The increases are to cover administrative and operator costs for the water systems.

“I hope this is an interim rate,” Board Chair Nancy McDermid said. “Not to go up, but to go down.”

Eight residents spoke at the meeting against the rate increase.

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Cave Rock resident Jim Wire asked the county to consider the financial burden the rate hike would create for some residents. People are experiencing lower incomes because of the economy.

“I’m sure the county could justify $2,000 a month, but that doesn’t mean I can pay it,” Wire said.

Cave Rock resident Jeanie Morris said she lives on a fixed income, and would not be able to afford the new rates.

“I’ll have to sell my home if I can’t afford the water,” Morris said.

The commissioners said they sympathized with the residents, but couldn’t ignore the fiscal problem.

“This pressure is what got us here today,” Commissioner Greg Lynn said. “We can’t defer this painful decision; the piper has to be paid.”

Cave Rock resident John McCall asked the board to table the decision until a better solution could be reached.

“Defer this long-term problem until we have long-range solutions,” McCall said.

McCall said a Cave Rock Water System Committee was formed 21⁄2 years ago to help come up with solutions for the water systems. Some of those solutions suggested deferring certain projects and postponing administrative policy increases.

One solution the county is pursuing is the consolidation of all the water systems so the rates would be less for residents. If consolidation is not reached by the 2010-11 fiscal year, Skyland’s rates would increase to $118.61 and Cave Rock’s and Uppaway’s rates would increase to $203.29, Ruschmeyer said.

“We’ll have (consolidation) ready to move once the consolidation study is complete,” Ruschmeyer said.

McDermid said she owned a home in Skyland for 10 years, and the water rates did not increase during that period. The county needs to make up for the years without an increase.

“We don’t want to do what we’re doing, but we have to make up for the errors in the past,” Commissioner Doug Johnson said.