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Supervisors to raise sewer rates

County supervisors on Tuesday approved raising sewer rates in seven out of 11 areas that it oversees to meet escalating costs associated with state and federal water quality standards.

Lake Wildwood, North San Juan, Penn Valley, Mountain Lake Estates, Eden Ranch and Valley Oak Court will all see rate hikes, with some as high as 28 percent.

Businesses in Higgins Village and residents of DarkHorse effectively protested a sewer rate increase by the county’s Sanitation District, while residents of Lake of the Pines bought some time.



In Nevada County and other rural areas, the clean water standards have made treating wastewater an expensive headache because their smaller population bases cannot adequately dilute costs compared with their metropolitan cousins.

“We are barely trying to stay alive. This would really, really hurt us,” said Fred Nakhaei, an owner of Northridge Restaurant in the Higgins Village area.




He joined other rate-payers in the area to stop a 28 percent increase of $475 that would have raised annual sewage bills from $1,675 to $2,150.

Protests like these are allowed thanks to the passage of Proposition 218 two decades ago, which shifted the power of taxation from local governments to property owners and residents.

The county will have to continue to service Higgins

corner in the southern part of the county through reserves until some kind of resolution is made.

“What happens when we run out of a fund balance? If someone doesn’t pay, the funding has to come from someplace,” said Supervisor Nate Beason. Beason, an advocate for wastewater treatment reform and a key player in the drama at Cascade Shores, urged the public to write state legislators for help.

“If costs are not passed on to customers there’s no other place to go. I see court relief as a necessary step,” said county counsel Robert Shulman.

He added county staff will continue to work with dissatisfied rate-payers in search of a remedy.

A majority of property owners in DarkHorse protested hikes that would go into effect when the county absorbs the responsibility for the subdivision’s waste water woes.

For the time being, the golf club is assuming responsibility for waste water treatment but is expected to hand it over to the county within six months. Proposed rates for DarkHorse property owners were the highest in the county at $3,045 a year.

In Lake of the Pines, a grassroots band of homeowners collected 1,090 signatures from people who opposed rate increases of $110 a year, bringing their sewage bill to $1,185 a year.

“Our residents do not want an increase,” said Roger Martinsen, a Lake of the Pines resident who helped collect signatures. He and others are asking for increases to be deferred until an alternative solution can be found.

Sanitation engineers argue waiting any longer will cost property owners more in the long run.

Only 801 of the signatures collected in Lake of the Pines were confirmed and verified by county staff in a suspenseful afternoon tally but not enough to stop the district from imposing rate increases.

Supervisors agreed to postpone rate increases for a month to allow an informational town hall meeting in Lake of the Pines to address the new fees.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

Money matters: Sewer increases

Zone Proposed increases Percent increase Annual bill

Lake Wildwood…………..$ 90………..14 percent ………….$995

Lake of the Pines………..$110………..16 percent ………….$1,185

North San Juan………….$125………..19 percent ………….$785

Penn Valley………………$45…………..5 percent ………….$995

Mountain Lakes Estates…..$ 50…………10 percent ………….$565

Eden Ranch……………..$190………..28 percent ………….$870

Higgins Village…………..$475………..28 percent ………….$2,150

Valley Oak Court…………$400………..25 percent ………….$2,000


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