Fresno's water rates to nearly double by 2016

FRESNO, Calif.

The rate increases will pay for several water-related infrastructure improvement projects priced at $410 million.

Public Utilities Director Patrick Wiemiller says the city plans to spend $226.6 million of that money to build a new water treatment plant in South East Fresno. The rest of the money will go towards revamping and improving aging pipes and water systems.

"We are fighting the clock on coming regulation that will cause a third of our wells to go offline. We may have to issue do not drink notices in the like...we are really in a race to get the infrastructure built." Wiemiller said.

City Council members acknowledge it won't be cheap for ratepayers. The average will bill now is about $24.49 a month according to the city. Soon that will increase to $33.28 and by the 2017 fiscal year, the monthly rate is estimated at $48.34.

The first rate hike is set to take effect September 17th.

"Our rates are the cheapest of any major metropolitan water system within the state, and they still will be after this initial increase," Wiemiller said.

"It's just too much too soon. If they had taken care of business back when they should've they wouldn't have to do this," said one Don Winton, who gets his water from the city. "This is a case of poor management."

But there were a small number of people at the meeting who felt the city council did the right thing.

"Just like our forefather invested in our future to have the wonderful water system we have, we need to make that investment for our future," one Fresno resident said.

Ratepayers had a chance to completely refute the city's proposal. If half of the city's 136,000 ratepayers submitted a written objection to the city, the planned rate hikes would have been dropped. The city says it received only 495 letters, putting the decision in the hands of the city council.

City council members who voted for the plan say it was a tough decision but it had to be done. They said the reason the increases are as high as they are now, is because past city council have put off the needed rate increases over the years.

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