After a lengthy study and discussion process, the Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) Board of Directors approved a substantial rate increase at its Nov. 21 meeting in order to pay for the NCSD’s Supplemental Water Project.
According to NCSD calculations, “average” residential water ratepayers using 36 units per month will see their overall water rate rise 34.4 percent from its current level as soon as water starts flowing through the under-construction pipeline from Santa Maria—which the district estimates will occur around July 1, 2015.
Projecting down the road, the water rate for the same “average customer” as of July 1, 2017, is scheduled to be 52.1 percent higher than its Nov. 1, 2014, level.
At the Nov. 21 meeting, NCSD General Manager Michael LeBrun announced his office had received roughly 655 “protest votes” from ratepayers, falling far short of the approximately 2,100 protests needed to reject the rate increase.
The Friday afternoon meeting drew 30 or 40 attendees, and most of the residents who spoke at public comment expressed concerns about the cost of the rate increase, the process that the district used to promote the rate increase, or the overall equity of the rate increase.
NCSD ratepayer John Snyder dubbed the rate increase a “sham,” and said he would advocate for a recall election of the NCSD board. Other concerned residents who spoke opined that the increase had been “rushed through,” and some hinted that the district could be hit with a lawsuit.
On the other side, Nipomo residents Ed Eby and Mike Winn spoke in favor of the increase, which they described as unpleasant but desperately needed for Nipomo, which currently relies entirely on a shrinking groundwater aquifer.
“I don’t like bills, but I understand the necessity,” Winn said.
Once the subject returned to the board, President Craig Armstrong explained that the district has commissioned “multiple exhaustive studies” and hosted many public meetings on the subject, all of which concluded the proposed increase is the best way to pay for the supplemental water project.
Most of the other board members echoed Armstrong’s sentiments, adding they had structured the rate increase to be as minimally burdensome as possible to high-efficiency water users, and penalize those who use large amounts of water.
After about 90 total minutes consisting of a presentation, public comment, and board discussion, the board voted 4-1—with Director Bob Blair opposed—to approve the water rate increase.