Possible hike in utility rates in Fresno

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Customers are looking at the potential at paying higher bills by the summer.

The City of Fresno could be inching closer to an increase in utility rates after a recommendation was made Thursday in front of the City Council.

It was a workshop to discuss increased operation costs and how the city can go about updating its aging infrastructure while delivering affordable and reliable water and garbage service.

But customers are looking at the potential of paying higher bills by the summer.

Fresno City leaders are taking a long look at recommendations to start the process of raising utility rates for thousands of residents.

According to city officials, more money is needed for system repairs and upgrades.

"The concern is aging infrastructure - so areas that have old pipes, and that's about 50 percent, so that's pretty much across the city," an official said.

Last year alone -- city maintenance crews responded to around 100 water main breaks in Fresno, including one that ruptured near Chukchansi Park downtown and forced the Grizzlies to cancel a game.

"What we want to do going forward is invest in the pipelines and our garbage trucks that provide our services day in and day out," said Department of Public Utilities Director Michael Carbajal.

Officials say customers could expect to pay about 20 percent higher bills over five years.

According to officials, families typically pay about $95 a month currently for water and weekly solid waste service.

"Under this rate plan, over the next five years, rates would go up $21. It's a pretty modest rate increase, very in line with other public utilities," said Carbajal.

City Council must still approve the process for the possible rate hike.

But here is the potential timeline:

Mail out notices - March 11

Allow residents to voice their concerns and answer questions about the bill increase - a few weeks later.

Rate increase - from July 1.

Late last year, the City Council rejected a proposal to begin the process, but they're expected to take another look at the idea of utility rate increases once again next month.
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