Yet another sewer hike is possible |

Yet another sewer hike is possible

What happens if ratepayers rebel?

Tuesday’s sewage rate hikes only cover operation and maintenance expenses. Under Proposition 218, that’s all Nevada County supervisors can approve.

Ratepayers themselves will have to OK big-ticket capital improvements.

For example, in a couple of years, Lake Wildwood residents may be asked to pay $2,000 per household to fund $5 million to upgrade the county-run sewage plant at the gated community. That’s according to rough estimates by Gordon Plantenga, county wastewater operations manager.

The money could increase annual sewage bills to the $800 range for a few years. Or the increase might be lower if bonds are sold to spread the expense out over a longer time.

But what if ratepayers say no?

“That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure exactly how to respond to that,” said David Carlson, chief of permits for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

He didn’t think the issue had come up before.

“My sense is that in most cases, there has been money available either through low-interest loans or grants for doing a lot of these upgrades,” Carlson said.

Sewage plants can be fined $3,000 per permit violation, Carlson said. Depending on the permit, fines can accrue daily, weekly or monthly, he said.

“They can rack up pretty quickly,” he said.

Five Lake Wildwood customers sent letters protesting the sewage rate increases that supervisors approved Tuesday. Under Prop. 218, if a majority of LWW’s roughly 2,600 ratepayers had sent letters in opposition, the rate hikes wouldn’t have happened.

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