Committee proposes utility rate hikes for Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

Overall the average Fresno home would see it's utility bill rise from a current $84.78 a month, to just over $89.00 next year, with gradual increases the cost would reach $98.50 by 2015.

Committee Chair Laura Whithouse believes the city should avoid the sudden, sharp increases of the past."We really do not want to have another time when we have these huge spikes again. We want to have small incremental rate increases that you really don't feel in your utility bill but are making a big difference for the City of Fresno."

While there's an overall utility increase proposed, residential garbage collection rates would actually drop commercial rates would see a drop then slight increases.

Fresno City Council President Lee Brand praised the committee's approach. "You have to have realistic built in figures and it's better to do it easy over time versus spiking it 10 or 15 or 20 % so I appreciate what you guys do."

Just one citizen, Loren Harding, spoke out against the proposed plan to raise water rates. "For water, we're going to have a 9% rate hike every year for five years, I think it's excessive."

The committee says the water rate hike is needed to replace one hundred year old pipes, expand a water treatment plant in Northeast Fresno and get a surface water treatment plant in Southeast Fresno operating to replace contaminated water in city wells.

Committee Member Alec Plumb told the council that because of expected changes in EPA regulations the city needed to act to get the surface plant on line. "We might have to shut down a number of wells in Southeast Fresno and then we are really going to have problems."

The Utility Advisory Committee was set up after the City Council faced protests over rate hikes in 2007. Then the city raised rates by 20% all at once after years of no increases. The city council will act on the committee's recommendations during the budgeting process.

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