Nevada Irrigation District customers vent frustration with proposed water rate hike
Know & Go
What: Water rate meetings
When and where: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Auburn Holiday Inn, 120 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn; 6 p.m. April 3, Board of Supervisors chambers in the Rood Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City
A standing-room-only crowd was on hand Tuesday to listen to Nevada Irrigation District staff as they sought to explain proposed rate increases that will affect both raw and treated water customers.
But it was clear that the majority of those in attendance weren’t buying the rationale as explained by Finance Director Marvin Davis and Greg Clumpner, the consultant hired to prepare a detailed cost-of-service study.
The informational meeting was the first of several scheduled ahead of a water district meeting on April 24, at which the directors will vote on the increases.
If approved, treated water customers would see an average increase of $13.07 each month this year, and monthly costs would almost double for many customers by 2023.
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As mandated by state law, the district sent out notices of the proposed changes to every property owner and tenant in the water district. Customers have until April 24, the day of the expected vote on the rates, to submit written protests. If the district receives protests representing a majority of the affected parcels — 50 percent plus one — the proposed rate increase will not be implemented.
Many of those in attendance at the first informational meeting were confused about the protest process, and concerned about the validity of the count. Concerns raised about the district’s budget and the proposed rate increases varied widely, with some questioning the high percentage of the budget allocated to benefits and salaries.
One man urged district staff to use the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle, adding, “I know it’s a complicated mess. You need to make the general public understand … My feeling is, NID doesn’t want the general public to understand.”
After the meeting, newly elected board member Ricki Heck acknowledged the district could have disseminated information in a more user-friendly manner.
“I feel like we needed to a better job of presenting the arguments for why the rate increase is necessary, in a simpler way,” Heck said. “There was frustration expressed at last night’s forum, and I’m not certain the presentation addressed the concerns of those who were present.”
Heck had already arranged to host a second informational meeting for Nevada County residents at the much larger Rood Center, set for April 3. The district will also have a meeting in Placer County on Thursday in Auburn.
“My goal is to be inclusive of the broadest number of customers and people possible,” she said. “I did not feel one meeting in Nevada County at NID headquarters was sufficient.”
Heck said that her email and social media accounts were flooded with concerns about the rate increase proposal.
“I felt (we) needed another public forum for those folks to come and say what they thought — and be heard,” she said, adding the April 3 meeting will be recorded and live-streamed.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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