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Updated 12:17pm - Sep 29, 2014

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Protests fail to stop city rate hike

After a week of counting, not enough valid votes found

Crescent City water customers will likely face a rate increase.

After four days of counting and verifying signatures, city staff determined that with 1,302 valid signatures, the Proposition 218 protest of a proposed water rate increase failed, according to City Clerk Robin Patch. Water customers needed to turn in 1,871 valid protest letters to block the increase.

Patch will announce the protest results at a special Crescent City Council meeting on Tuesday. The Council will then vote on the rate increase.

“We were trying to be as detailed as we possibly could,” Patch said. “When I present to (the Council) what the numbers are, they are given opportunities to proceed on whether or not they want to adopt the ordinance.”

If the ordinance is adopted, water rates would increase by $6.16 — or 60 percent — for residential water customers who use 1,600 cubic feet of water per month in December. Rates would increase again by $3.79 in 2014, by $3.44 in 2015, by 72 cents in 2016 and 74 cents in 2017.

The rate increases are necessary to close a $649,000 budget gap in the city’s water fund and put the city in a better position to obtain loan financing for a $4.5 million, five-year capital improvement plan, city officials say. Rates have not been raised in over a decade.

The primary reason the protest failed is because the city received multiple signatures from residents living on one parcel, according to City Attorney Bob Black. Under Proposition 218, only one protest letter per parcel can be counted even in the case of an apartment complex with 30 or 40 residents.

Patch said she received 2,244 protest letters including 2,203 signatures from former City Councilwoman Donna Westfall on Monday. Several more letters were mailed to the city. Staff found that there were 860 invalid or duplicate protests, Patch said. Roughly 82 letters didn’t contain enough information for staff to determine if the individual had the right to protest, she said.

In addition to the box of letters she submitted, Westfall turned over more signatures on Monday that she said she didn’t mean for Patch to count. Those signatures came from residents living outside the greater Crescent City area, including Brookings and Gasquet, according to Westfall. Patch said she included those letters in the count.

“I need to make the final determinations on whether someone has the right to protest or not,” she said. “I can’t take somebody’s word for it.”

If rates don’t increase, the water fund will be out of cash by January, according to Interim Finance Director Susan Mayer. The city owes the state $175,000 in a January payment of a state loan that paid for redundant water lines and increased capacity at the water tank near Washington Boulevard in 2000. The second semi-annual loan payment is due in July, according to Mayer.

The special City Council meeting will be held at 5:30 on Tuesday at the Flynn Center. Agendas are available at www.crescentcity.org.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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