By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday deferred for a second time a decision on increasing water and sewer rates while it looks for a way to make the inevitable hikes less painful.
“I have talked to seniors and I hear stories they absolutely can’t afford any more money, and we have a fairly large population of people on a fixed income,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer.
The staff had recommended water rate increases of 25 percent beginning in July, 22 percent in 2013-14, 18 percent in 2014-2015 and 15 percent in 2015-2016.
The proposed sewer rate increase is 12 percent for each of the next four years.
Those rates combined would double the cost for a typical resident after four years.
However, without a rate increase, deficits of $450,000 to $525,000 are projected for each of the next four years as the city puts money into repairs and replacing parts of the system, according to the city report.
The city says it needs to cover the deficits, the cost of water and sewer service and also set aside $500,000 a year for maintenance and improvements for each of the systems. The city this year deferred $1.1 million in maintenance on the water system and $3.9 million on the sewer system.
The city, as part of a legal settlement from a sewage spill two years ago, must inspect the entire sewage system, using cameras inserted into the lines, at a cost of $400,000.
The city also runs the risk of having to make emergency repairs, which would be much more costly than repairs made as part of maintenance or rehabilitation, City Manager Jack Griffin said.
The council also was presented with alternatives that call for lower rate increases that would offset the deficits and raise money for repairs over five, six and seven years rather than four.
Vice Mayor Mike Kyes, however, proposed water rate increases of 19 percent and that the city borrow money to make the necessary repairs in advance.
Griffin will analyze that scenario and bring the information back within the next month.
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@