Water rates must rise, utility officials say

CITY HALL — Glendale Water & Power officials on Monday continued to press their case for a water rate increase, saying the utility is already falling behind on important infrastructure maintenance due to lack of revenue.

The utility has made significant strides in meeting ambitious strategic goals, but officials said progress on water infrastructure projects has stalled as they grapple with reduced revenues.

Adopted by the City Council last year, the utility's five-year strategic plan called for reduced rates, less electricity consumption, a greener energy portfolio, improved customer service and increased use of recycled water, among other targets.

Of 43 goals outlined in the plan, the majority — including reducing citywide energy and water usage, increasing the use of groundwater and clamping down on electrical theft — are on track or ahead of schedule, General Manager Glenn Steiger said at Monday's Glendale Water & Power Commission meeting.

"Overall we are in relatively good shape," he said.

Several of the goals will be made possible through the $50-million Smart Grid project, which includes the installation of advanced water and electric meters that will let consumers track real-time water and electric usage.

Still, Steiger acknowledged that dwindling revenues have hurt the utility's ability to move forward with several key goals, including increasing the city's recycled water pipelines and renovating 25 miles of the city's aging pipeline, he said.

"We are behind schedule and we will continue to be behind schedule for a while until we can get our rate structure in the condition that will allow us to meet this goal," he said.

The capital projects have been postponed after officials slashed the utility's budget to keep a proposed 3.8% water rate increase as low as possible.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the proposed increase on Oct. 12. Some council members have been skeptical of the hike, but utility officials say it is necessary as they grapple with millions in lost revenues during mandatory conservation.

"The right thing to do by this utility is to pass this rate increase," said Assistant General Manager Peter Kavounas.

Given the lackluster response at a series of community meetings on the proposed rate increase, Commissioner Zanku Armenian said the utility should formulate a different approach to public outreach.

"I think we need to look at it from a perspective of us going to where the people are rather than trying to have the people come to us," he said. "Because community outreach is a very difficult process."

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World