WatchSonoma Watch

Petaluma water and sewer rates likely to rise


Petaluma residents will likely see small water and sewer rate hikes for each of the next five years as the city looks at passing on wholesale water costs to customers and adopts annual inflationary increases.

But, the city’s water experts said, the hikes aren’t as bad as they could have been — and are lower than each of the last five years’ increases.

One segment of customers — mobile home park residents, often seniors or lower-income residents — could even see a dollar or two savings per month.

On Monday night, the council received a five-year rate analysis that examined the city’s existing rates, costs and billing structures.

The analysis anticipates water and sewer revenue increases of 4 and 5 percent, respectively, will be needed in January to maintain current operations and maintenance of water delivery and sewer treatment services to the city’s 58,000 residents.<NO1><NO>

With other variables, that will amount to monthly increases of about 3 percent for many users. High-volume residential users and industrial customers will see hikes near 12 percent.

A typical residential customer will likely see a 3.8 percent increase in water and a 2.6 percent rise in wastewater rates. The average customer who today spends $97.77 a month will see their January bill jump to $100.75.

“It’s not going to be as bad as we anticipated,” said Rem Scherzinger, the city’s interim water resources director.

Two residents spoke out against the proposed increases Monday, although a larger turnout is expected Dec. 5 when the City Council takes formal action.

For the past five years, water rates have increased 5 percent a year while wastewater rates have increased 13 percent annually until this year.

In December 2010, the council approved a sewer rate hike for 2011 of 9 percent, down from the 13 percent recommended in the previous study’s multi-year rate schedule.

If the city adopts the recommended changes, for the first time it will begin passing on to customers the increases in the wholesale cost of water Petaluma purchases from the Sonoma County Water Agency. The agency typically announces its price increases each July and city hikes would take effect in August.

Bob Reed, whose firm conducted the analysis, said his recommendations assume a 6 percent increase annually in the city’s cost for the water.

Also a first — the study recommends a minimum 2 percent inflation bump to take effect in January 2013. The rate would be tied to the consumer price index.

The city’s rate changes were deemed necessary to provide water and sewer services, establish reserve funds for those departments and pay debt service on bonds, mostly for the new Ellis Creek sewer treatment plant.

10 Responses to “Petaluma water and sewer rates likely to rise”

  1. AntiRemleh says:

    I’m sure that chief engineer Rem Scherzinger’s hefty salary keeps increasing. So much for the city’s management being part of the 99%. :-(

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  2. Anti-Remleh says:

    I’m sure Rem Scherzinger’s nice BIG salary will keep going up.

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  3. BigDogatPlay says:

    What I still scratch my head over is why the city walked away from it’s city owned watershed several years ago. That brilliant maneuver left us held hostage by SCWA.

    If the city wants to run it’s own utilities it should have started by not abandoning it’s own infrastructure.

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  4. Nicole says:

    They raise rates so we conserve. We conserve so they raise rates. It’s a vicious cycle and needs to be broken.

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  5. John Hudson says:

    “Factual”: You know that I cannot post the email from Reed on this forum. I gave you the facts. This is a disingenuous statement on your part. Why don’t you email Reed and ask him to name the cities for which he did “consulting” and did not recommend a rate increase? For that matter, everyone should email Reed and ask him when he did not recommend a rate increase!I ha[[en to know the city for which he did not recommend a rate increase – DIXON! Dixon is the first city in California to pass an initiative to roll back sewer rates. The main backer of that initiative, Mike Ceremello, is now on the Dixon city council. He told me all about Reed.

    The facts about Reed and, for that matter, every consultant on the government gravy train is that they say what the city council wants said or they are out of business. The same is true of city auditors. The auditors for the City of Bell, where four of five city council members were indicted last year, gave the City of Bell a clean bill of health for several years before the scandal broke. Since then, Meyer, Hoffman & McCann have lost only one client, the City of Riverside. All the rest of the cities for which Meyer, Hoffman, & McCann were the auditors kept them because they knew that this firm would not blow the whistle.

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  6. The Hammer says:

    This will really help the economy. Ask the public to pay more from less. Has anybody informed Petaluma that there is a recession going on?

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  7. Be factual says:

    @John Hudson,

    I am certainly no fan of raising water and sewer rates in Petaluma, but you can please provide some facts of this email you refer to from Bob Reed? Without facts, I will assume everything you stated is bogus.

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  8. John Hudson says:

    I have an email from Robert Reed wherein he admits that he has been in the sewer/water consulting business for over 20 years and in only one case has not recommended a rate increase. When this mouthpiece for tax and spend local governments shows up, demand that he tell you when he did NOT recommend a rate increase. He knows full well that if he recommended agtainst a rate increase that would be the end of his “consulting” business because no local government would hire him again.

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  9. Where is the Justice says:

    Are they blaming this on the rising sea water caused by enviromental disaster caused by human habitation here on their mother earth?

    If we citizens are saving all of this water through water conservation, why the need to increase water rates?

    I love the way the government thinks. “The rate increase isn’t as bad as it could have been.” Well how bad could it have been? You set the rates, you have the monoply.

    This is always government thinking. They control and they can charge. Did they ever consider lowering the costs? No, they have high paid, high benefited employees to pay according to their union contracts.

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  10. Social Dis-Ease says:

    More contrived lack.
    More contrived expense.
    More incrementaliism.
    More financial sabotage.
    More indoctrination.
    More lies.
    There’s plenty of water.
    Our Agenda 21 driven government has shown that they would rather let precious uncaptured water run into the ocean than have it augment our well being. That’s how they roll.

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