Deadline to oppose water rate hike comes after hearing

Residents opposed to proposed water rate increases will have a last chance to air their concerns and submit a protest letter to the Crescent City Council during a public hearing Monday night.

The Council in September unanimously approved increasing monthly water rates by $6.16 - or 60 percent - in December for the average residential customer who uses 1,600 cubic feet of water per month. Rates would then increase by $3.79 in 2014, $3.44 in 2015, 72 cents in 2016 and 74 cents in 2017.

The additional revenue would pay for upgrades to make the system more reliable. The upgrades include making an elevated tank on Wonder Stump Road, which guides the water from its source near the Smith River to town, more earthquake resistant.

If rates aren't increased, Crescent City's water fund will be out of cash by January and it won't be able to make a state loan payment in February, according to Interim Finance Director Susan Mayer. The water fund's projected deficit was $417,000 when the city adopted its 2013andndash;14 budget in June. The current projected deficit is $649,000, according to Mayer.

Water customers have paid the current water rates for more than a decade. Residential customers who use 1,600 cubic feet of water per month currently pay $10.26.

Residents have an opportunity to protest the proposed rate increases through the Proposition 218 process. If the city receives protest letters from more than 50 percent of the affected parcels, it cannot implement the rate increase. The total number of parcels for which protests can be submitted is 3,741, according to the city.

"They've had a 45-day opportunity to protest," said City Manager Eugene Palazzo. "We have received a few, but I don't know the number."

Protestors have until the end of a public hearing on the water rates to submit letters, Palazzo said. Those who have already submitted protest letters also have until that time to withdraw their protest. It may take 30 minutes or so for City Clerk Robin Patch, who has received the protest letters, to count them, Palazzo said.

One protest per parcel may be submitted to the city, according to City Attorney Bob Black. The protest can come from the property owner or a tenant who is directly responsible for his or her water bill. Even if the water bill is in the landlord's name, if it is stated in a tenant's lease that he or she must pay for it, then that person too would be able to submit a protest letter, according to Black.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the Flynn Administrative Center, 981 H St. Agendas and staff reports can be found at

Reach Jessica Cejnar at