Nine speakers demanded that the Cambria Community Services District put proposed water, sewer, and Sustainable Water Facility rate increases on hold at the June 21 district meeting.
During public comment, Samuel Shalhoub said he advocates for what the community wants from the board of directors—a pause on the proposed rates and accountability for how the funds will be spent. He said that rather than just going with its consultant Bartle Wells Associates' proposed rate increases, the board should create its own.
"The board itself could generate alternative proposals that you all will stand behind that represent the voice of the people," Shalhoub said. "I'm sure we can afford to pay some increase in our rates, but the board has to show that it will be spent responsibly and that there's accountability for where those funds are going."
The proposed rates would increase the bills for water, sewer, and the Sustainable Water Facility over the course of three years.
Currently, residents pay a $13.79 monthly charge for water that would increase to $16 in September 2018, $17.92 in July 2019, and $19 in July 2020. They pay a Sustainable Water Facility charge of $6.50 that would increase to $8.08 in September 2018, $8.89 in July 2019, and $9.51 in July 2020. The sewer payment would go up from $30.29 to $36.34 in September 2018, $42.88 in July 2019, and $49.74 in July 2020.
The current rate study was designed to support infrastructure funding needs as well as operating and maintenance costs of the Sustainable Water Facility. The rates would also fund capital improvements for the water facility to comply with regulatory requirements.
Cambria conducted its last water and sewer rates study during the drought in 2016. At the time, the study was designed to re-align the rates with the cost of the emergency water supply facility.
District board President Amanda Rice told New Times that she had heard the concerns of residents at a previous town hall meeting on June 19.
"What I heard from the community is: We understand that infrastructure maintenance has been deferred and we know there are needs in the water and waste water department. But we are not feeling confident in the district to follow through and that we're moving to fast," Rice said.
The board created two advisory committees, infrastructure and finance, to closely monitor issues regarding the water facility and capital improvement projects. At the June 21 meeting, the board unanimously voted to have a joint meeting on July 11 between both committees to review the proposed rate increases. Their recommendation will go before the board at a special meeting slated for July 12. The board will review the recommendation, set a hearting date for the proposed rates, and send out a Proposition 218 notice to the community.