The first of two town hall meetings, to review proposed water service rate increases, was held by the Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power on Wednesday. During the rate increase presentation, which opened with DWP Chairman Steve Foulkes noting, “This is something different than we’ve had structurally in the past; the goal is to get as equitable as possible,” a thorough outline of DWP history, including debt history, and necessary mainline improvements, both completed and planned, was shared with those in attendance. Some challenges unique to the DWP, given our community, is that just one-third of water customers live here on a full-time basis, yet water supply—especially given the threat of wildland fire—needs to be available to all 15,800 customers 24/7, 365 days a year, as pointed out by DWP’s General Manager Joel Dickson. He also went on to say, “We know that what we do affects your lives and your pocketbooks, so we’re very concerned about that.” Dickson, the DWP’s GM since October 2008 also noted, “We feel it’s hard to ask for a rate increase if we’re not operating efficiently. We want you to know that we have been diligent in cutting costs. For the public’s safety, and for other reasons, we need to raise rates.” Specifics of the rate increase which, given the new rate structure, would ultimately result in a lower overall bill for full-time residential customers in 2010, were outlined in the September 9 Power Point presentation, and will be reviewed again in next Saturday’s second town hall meeting, to be presented at the MWD offices, at 40524 Lakeview Drive, at 10am on the 19th. With both the DWP Board and staff on hand, attendees were given opportunity to ask questions. Of the handful of those who did comment on Wednesday, Marge Mc Donald, a DWP customer as a resident of Sugarloaf and yet a director for the Community Services District Board, which has not raised water rates for their East Valley water customers, said, “In this economy, when people are losing their jobs and losing their homes, how can people afford a rate increase?” On the other hand, former DWP Commissioner and Big Bear Lake resident Susan Conley said she was in favor of the new rate structure, adding, “For goodness sake, let’s be real here. I want my house protected when there’s a fire. I don’t want to take for granted that the water will be there.” Prior to rate increases potentially taking effect in January 2010 and July 2011, there will be a Proposition 218 Protest Hearing, to be held on October 6 at 9am at Northwoods Resort in the Village, and then a vote by the City Council of Big Bear Lake. Though details of the water rate increase have been outlined here on KBHR, DWP customers are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to hear all the specifics when, again, presented next Saturday.