Nevada City OKs wastewater rate increase |

Nevada City OKs wastewater rate increase

Nevada City, citing an aging wastewater treatment plant that needs more funding to operate and maintain, will raise its wastewater rates incrementally over the next five years.

On Wednesday, the city council held a public hearing on the proposed rate hike, which will increase the fixed fees for the city’s 1,554 customers by 30 percent by 2023 — from $44.61 a month to $58.13. The flow charge per 1,000 gallons, after the first 2,000 gallons, will increase by 48 percent over those five years, from $6.78 to $10.05.

Nevada City has not increased wastewater rates since 2007 and expenditures have exceeded revenues for the last four years to the tune of more than $1.2 million, according to the staff report from City Manager Catrina Olson.

Olson estimated the rate increase will generate approximately $120,000 for 2019, increasing 2.5 percent annually.

“The current wastewater rates do not reflect the full cost necessary to provide this service,” Olson wrote. “The proposed rate change is designed to sustainably operate and maintain the aging infrastructure of the wastewater treatment plant and system.”

According to the staff report, Nevada City has experienced a significant increase in the operational costs of the wastewater treatment plant, primarily due to repair and maintenance, chlorine and chemicals and testing. A lot of this is tied to regulatory requirements and required changes in operations.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Olson told the council that staff had received 13-15 letters in protest of the proposed rate hike, with some asking if the city could cut costs elsewhere or fund needed work through grants.

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Council Member Reinette Senum, calling it an economy of scale problem, due to a tiny population supporting a full-service system.

Council Member Erin Minett noted complaints that the public hearing was held during Victorian Christmas, when it would be difficult to attend. But Olson said the hearing had to take place before the end of the year so the city wouldn’t lose out on two months of billing the increase, estimating that pushing the hearing out would cost the city more than $20,000.

The council approved the increase, with Senum and council member Duane Strawser suggesting the city look to minimize the increase’s effect on big commercial water users.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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