Lots of people have emailed me about the proposed sewer rate increase. For the City’s official information sheet, click here to Read more.
The public hearing concerning the proposed changes to the sewer rates that was noticed for the City Council meeting of April 6th is being continued until Tuesday, April 20th. The reason for this continuance is to allow more time to disseminate information regarding the rate increase into the community, and to have an additional community information meeting. The additional meeting will be on Wednesday, April 14th at 7:00 PM in the City Council Chambers. An additional mailed notice regarding this meeting, together with questions and answers regarding the proposed sewer rate increase, should be received by all households in the service area by the middle part of next week.
This past week, staff from Engineering/Wastewater, Finance, the City Attorney’s Office and Veolia conducted an informational meeting related to the proposed sewer rate increase, which was attended by about 30 – 40 members of the community. Staff was concerned, however, that adequate notice regarding this meeting was not provided uniformly throughout the community, necessitating that an additional meeting be scheduled.
Most of the objections I have been getting are concerns with an additional tax burden in these hard times and a concern that all residential units pay the same fee regardless of sewage use.
I want to share some information that may be helpful.
- This only affects people in the Richmond Wastewater District served by the treatment plant on Canal Boulevard. Stege and West County Wastewater customers are not affected.
- Richmond skimped on maintenance and capital improvements on the wastewater plant and collection system for decades, keeping fees artificially low. Now we have to make this up. We are not alone; many communities are now having to pay the price.
- The Baykeeper lawsuit, mandatory penalties from the BAWQCB and costs of claims from sewer backups and overflows paid to Richmond property owners can and have run into the millions. The fees to repair and update the system are cheaper than fines and damage claims. Just recently, San Carlos paid a $350,000 fine. In November 2009, the BAWQMD served the City of Pacifica with an administrative civil liability complaint with a proposed fine of $2,300,000 for a 6.9 million gallon unauthorized discharge of partially treated wastewater, sanitary sewer overflows, and exceeding limits of its discharge permit. In June 2009, the Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District was fined $332,000 for three spills of more than 775,000 gallons of sewage. Those are just a few recent examples.
- When Richmond first embarked on the improvement projects and increased fees, we looked at several options, one being basing residential fees on sewage produced. There were extensive public hearings and public input at the time. There was even a Blue Ribbon Citizen’s Committee. The only way to measure this is to tie it to EBMUD water bills. The cost of EBMUD to process and collect the fees would add a surcharge, so that even more money would have to be paid by customers to end up with the amount actually needed. In addition, water users would be billed sewer fees on water that does not end up in the sewer, such as irrigation. The consensus was that there is no way that is totally fair to everyone, but the current method had the least objections.
Acts of defiance relating to taxes and fees are more popular than ever. Objecting to the rate increase may feel good, but it’s a matter of paying now or paying later – and later usually costs more.