Council approves sewer rate increase

Laguna Beach residents who live roughly north of Nyes Place will pay more for sewer service starting July 1.

The City Council voted Tuesday to increase fees by 3.5% in each of the next three fiscal years for residences who get sewer and water services from the city. Residences south of Cardinal Way and Lagunitas are served by the South Coast Water District.

No one spoke at the meeting to protest the increases. A total of 4,285 protests were needed to stymie the rate hike. Nine were sent.

"I suggest that the members of the council begin to assess users of 'subsidized city services' for the benefits they receive, rather than always placing the burden on the property owners," wrote Craig Griffin. "As an example, don't support the open space initiative, charge more for users of the city tram service, stop re-paving streets and alleys that don't need them; run the city government more cost efficiently by stopping the time/expense it takes to write more legislation, rules and regulations."

The increase will fund the proposed 10-year sewer system capital improvement program — including the replacement or refurbishing of the city's aging lift stations that move waste water to the coastal treatment plant, according to Water Quality Director David Shissler.

Spending on improvements in fiscal year 2012-13 will total an estimated $20.5 million, $12.2 million of which will cover the city's share of costs for replacements and upgrades to South Orange County Water Authority's treatment plant.

The city mailed notices of the proposed increases in April to the addresses of 8,570 property owners. Some of the notices were returned and could not be resent; however, the city redirected the majority of them to the address of the residence at which water use is monitored.

Notices included the time and date of a question-and-answer session on April 26 in the City Council chambers, Shissler said.

"No one attended," Shissler said.

Laguna's current rate of about $43.67 a month for a single-family residence is less than the $47.85 a month charged by South Coast Water District for the residences it serves.

The increase for residences served by the city will amount to about $1.50 a month for a single-family resident next year, officials said.

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