Town Hall meetings to discuss raising Fresno water rates

FRESNO, Calif.

If a measure raising water rates is passed, in a few weeks simply turning on and off your water could cost you more. Members of Fresno City government and the water division fielded some tough questions from Northeast Fresno families Monday night, over whether to raise their water rates.

"I didn't come here to fight these people; I just wanted a better definition of what they're doing," said Andrew Kateian from Fresno.

The rate increase could cause a residential customer's water bill to double or more within three years. City officials say the extra money will go toward a $410 million upgrade to an aging water system that must grow along with the city.

"We have about 1,800 miles of water mains and 30 percent of those are over 50 years old, some are even 70 or 90 years old," said Patrick Wiemiller, Fresno Public Utilities Director.

It costs us about five times as much to repair a broken line as it does to go out and replace it. Wiemiller says raising rates will also help reverse the city's declining water table. The money would go towards the construction of a $227 million surface water treatment plant on a plot of land in Southeast Fresno, as well as new pipes in certain areas, new water wells where needed, and improved recharge basins.

But homeowners like Andrew Kateian say they are surprised by the sticker shock, and question why past city councils didn't act sooner and raise rates incrementally.

"I wish they would have started these 5-10 years ago, my gosh," Kateian said.

The city council will discuss and vote on the issue at its August 15 meeting. If the date arrives without the majority of homeowners opposing the rates, they will go up.

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