A rate hike scheduled to take place in September will likely be eliminated, after the CCWD Board of Directors directed staff to take steps to cancel it Wednesday, March 9. The Board will take official action on this item at its next meeting on March 23. The increase would have raised standard residential water rates by $5.11 per month and wastewater by $3.84 per month.

This direction came as part of the Board’s unanimous approval of an updated Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan.

The rate increase would have been the third since 2013. It was initially scheduled for September 2015, but the sitting Board postponed it for one year. All revenues generated by the increases are reserved to fund Capital Renovation and Replacement projects that address infrastructure challenges throughout the District. Despite the impending elimination of this year’s increase, staff informed the Board that there will be adequate funding to complete the most critical Capital R&R projects, although it may be a challenge to fund other unanticipated emergency projects if and when they arise, such as those experienced in the past year due to the drought and Butte Fire.

“In an ideal world, I’d rather have access to these funds and have a certain amount dedicated to emergencies,” said Dave Eggerton, CCWD general manager. “But I get it. Our community has made a big sacrifice to make this (Capital R&R program) possible … For now, we just have to try to make it work.”

CCWD Board President Terry Strange praised staff for “finding creative ways to manage fiscal challenges” and said he is pleased to eliminate the rate increase, but he also cautioned fellow Board members to remain fiscally vigilant.

“Since being elected, I’ve always had a commitment to be responsive to ratepayers’ concerns, and a main concern is the increased rates,” Strange said. “Our Board is aware that with the fiscal challenges created by the drought and other issues, it’s going to be a challenge to continue managing our financial resources in a way that keeps us from having to ask our customers to pay more.”

Staff cautioned the Board that one of the most significant financial challenges ahead is an ongoing shortfall in the Operations and Maintenance budget for wastewater services. This was identified in the District’s most recent financial audit and has raised concern at the State Water Resources Control Board that, unless addressed, the District may be ineligible for millions in grant funding for wastewater system improvements. Staff is working to present options to the Board to address this concern without raising rates.

In other Board action, an engineering and design services contract was awarded to Peterson Brustad, Inc., for the Jenny Lind Water Treatment Plant pretreatment project. Due to the impacts of the Butte Fire on the Calaveras River Watershed, the pretreatment facility is a necessary improvement to the existing facility so the plant can effectively treat much higher levels of ash, sediment and organics in the Calaveras River – a water source for more than 10,000 people in the greater Rancho Calaveras area. The project’s cost is estimated to be $3.75 million, with $2.8 million being funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Cal-OES/FEMA).

The project is scheduled for final completion in early 2017, but the District is striving to bring the new pretreatment facilities online before rains come again this fall/winter.

“Our goal and target is to get this new equipment in operation so we realize the benefit of it as we come into the next wet season,” Eggerton said.

The Board of Directors’ next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday March 23 at 120 Toma Court, San Andreas.

Contact: Joel Metzger, PIO/Customer Relations Manager joelm@ccwd.org or (209) 754-3123

Written by Joel Metzger