E.C. council boosts water rates and treatment fees

April 04, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

New water and wastewater rates for the next five years will go into effect July 1.

The El Centro City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the new rates to modernize its aging water treatment and wastewater treatment facilities.

The rates for water will increase 8 percent yearly while wastewater treatment fees will increase 6 percent yearly.

For Gil Pérez, president of United Taxpayers of Imperial County, both increases are too much.

Pérez pointed out that 46 percent of El Centro residents are low-income or very low-income and many are on fixed incomes. He said those people will have a hard time paying the higher rates and will likely purchase less food or medicine to do so.

"How can you justify rate increases to them?" he said.

Pérez asked if there was some way to make the increased costs more palatable, and that the increases are more than 6 and 8 percent because of compounding; that is this year's rate will increase 6 and 8 percent, but the following years' rates increases will include previous rate increases.


"I'm pleading on their behalf," he said.

El Centro resident Irene Avila said the rate increases would be too much. She also said the quality of tap water is lessening.

The City Council responded to Avila by assigning a city worker to test her water today.

The city currently charges $25.87 per month for water. The new rate will be $27.96 effective July 1. By the end of the planned upgrades — seven years — the rate is expected to be $37.59.

The city water treatment plant was built in 1954 and has undergone upgrades. Its original design capacity is 18 million gallons per day with an actual capacity of between 13 million and 14 million, and peak demand of about 12 million. The city projects $14.8 million in upgrades.

On the wastewater treatment side, the city charges $25.91 monthly. On July 1 the rate will go up to $27.46, and by 2007 will reach $34.67.

The wastewater treatment plant was built in 1957. Its capacity is 8 million gallons per day. It currently treats about 4 million and has a peak of about 6 million. An estimated $22.3 million in upgrades is needed.

The city expects to sell 25-year bonds to raise the money.

In other business, the City Council approved placing six whip antennas on the old water tank near the intersection of Vine Street and Eighth Street. The city will receive $14,000 yearly in rent, and some free maintenance on the structure.

Councilman Jack Dunnam voted against the issue, saying the tank is a city landmark that should not be commercialized.

"I'd rather clean up the site and make it into a small park," he said.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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