bblcity-thumb1It’s been a long time coming for staff and the Board of the Department of Water and Power, but a water rate increase is just one City Council vote away from adoption, scheduled for their October 26 meeting. Though the water rate justifications and specifics were not outlined again at last night’s Council meeting, given prior Council/DWP workshops, town hall meetings and last Tuesday’s protest hearing, DWP Chairman Steve Foulkes noted that “this is a restructuring” and once the rate modifications are implemented in January 2010 and July 2011, he added, the increased fees will amount to roughly an additional 10¢ per day for customers, or about $3 a month. Councilmembers thanked Foulkes and DWP staff for their thorough response to Council requests, and Liz Harris pointed out that she was in favor of the restructuring because it would allow for appropriate maintenance of the infrastructure, including the safety priority of upgrading to pipelines that could support enough water flow for fire suppression. However, vote on the first reading of the DWP rate proposal did not flow to a quick conclusion, as Council’s Darrell Mulvihill expressed concern about the economy, and, as Michael Karp said, “I can’t in good conscience approve this until I at least know that agency consolidation is on the radar.” Other Council members pointed out that a merging of DWP and the Community Services District was not on the agenda and, as put by Bill Jahn, “I don’t think you can hold the public’s safety ransom while we go off on these visions. They [the DWP] have a department to run and they need the resources to run it.” All told, Mayor Rick Herrick cited the restructuring as fair and he and Harris and Jahn supported the water rate increase, and Mulvihill and Karp voted against it; the DWP proposal now goes to a final vote on October 26 and, if approved, would be implemented in 30 days or, as drafted, effective January 2010. A second DWP item on the October 12 Council agenda, a proposed ordinance regarding capacity charges and administrative fees, was pulled for additional revisions and will go before Council at a future meeting.