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Huntington Beach water rates to increase for 5 years, despite protests from residents

Huntington Beach water rates to increase for 5 years, despite protests from residents
The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday to increase local water rates effective July 1. (File Photo)

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday voted to increase local water rates for the next five years, despite receiving 691 protest letters from residents.

Under the plan taking effect July 1, most single-family households will pay $53.03 a month — 70 cents more than now — in the first year of five annual rate increases.

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The increase is expected to raise $39 million in fiscal 2019-20. It’s unclear how much households would pay in the fifth year, 2024, because the city’s water rates are formulated using a variety of components.

Sewer rates would decline $1 per month, to $10.35, for most single-family households. According to a city staff report, that adjustment is recommended because major capital sewer projects received financing from a different fund.

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Residents will receive a notice from the city indicating the pending adjustments at least 30 days before they take effect.

The overall rate plan needed at least five votes from the seven-member council.

Mayor Erik Peterson was the only dissenting voice, saying he never voted for such proposals because “every year we have something coming up saying we’re running out of money.”

Councilman Mike Posey said he supported the higher water rates because they would help the city’s fiscal sustainability.

Posey cited a water study commissioned by the city that indicated if the proposed adjustments weren’t implemented, the city would “draw down its operating and capital reserves below target levels, resulting in less than $5 million in reserves by the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year.”

Travis Hopkins, city director of public works, told the council that the proposed water rates would help replace and protect the city’s wells, its cheapest source of water. The new rates also could help replace infrastructure in case of an earthquake, he added.

Some critics of the rate hike said they live on fixed incomes.

Resident Connie Ngo urged the council to vote against it, saying some people don’t make money fast enough to pay their bills and provide for their families.

Mayor Pro Tem Lyn Semeta said she was sympathetic to residents who having trouble paying but said Huntington Beach’s water rates still are relatively low compared with other cities.

Under the planned increase, Huntington Beach would rank fifth-lowest in water rates compared with those currently charged by other agencies such as the city of Westminster and the East Orange County Water District, according to a presentation Monday by Chris Davis, an analyst with the Public Works Department.

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