Our View: Nevada Irrigation District needs to hit pause on proposed rate increase | TheUnion.com

Our View: Nevada Irrigation District needs to hit pause on proposed rate increase

The Nevada Irrigation District could use a friend to lean on in times like these.

The district has been taking hits for years, and they only seem to be increasing in frequency. The latest punch: A proposal to hike water rates has led customers to lash out, loudly, and with good reason.

A proposed rate hike, that if approved becomes effective May 1, would almost double rates for many folks by 2023.

It’s tough to be friends with someone who’d do that to you.

There are plenty of problems with the water district’s move, not least of which is the speed it’s happening. NID dropped the news early this month. Customers have until April 24, the day the water district’s board is scheduled to vote on the rate increases, to file a written protest.

If the district receives protests from 50 percent plus one of its customers, the increase won’t happen.

NID has about 25,000 treated and raw water customers.

Let’s lay this out: NID has a problem effectively communicating. Sure, it’s held a couple of informational meetings. Another is set for April 3 at the Eric Rood Administrative Center, 959 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.

Holding meetings isn’t the same as proper messaging. Attendees to one forum said as much. One man called the process a “complicated mess,” arguing NID doesn’t want the public to understand.

Afterward NID board member Ricki Heck said the water district could have been more user friendly.

“There was frustration expressed at last night’s forum,” Heck said at the time, “and I’m not certain the presentation addressed the concerns of those who were present.”

Sometimes the truth hurts. Best to lean on a friend in times like these.

It’s also a good idea to take that hard truth and act on it. NID board members in the past have shown arrogance in the face of opposition. Instead they should show wisdom.

The water board needs to take this rate increase slow. Take notes from the frustrated and angry rate payers at these public forums. Don’t push this down their throats. NID doesn’t have nearly the amount of goodwill to convince people this is necessary.

The district could build that goodwill, but it’ll take time. Here’s a few steps to get there:

Step 1: Hit pause on the rate increase. NID needs to prove that it listens to its constituents. Pushing this through is the wrong move. Listen to the people who attend the public forums and delay the rate hike.

Step 2: Hold educational public forums. Don’t merely appear at meetings and passively watch your rate payers complain. Tell us in simple terms why you need more money. Cut the bean counters and bring in someone who will talk to us like we’re your friends. You sure could use more of them.

Step 3: Check your attitude at the door. From the Centennial Dam project to the current rate increase proposal, NID has shown a stunning ability to ignore its customers and blindly lurch forward.

Look to former board member John Drew, who in early 2014 was talking about a proposed 6% annual rate increase. Drew told people upset about a lack of protection in the law that they should change the law.

“It’s highly unlikely you will get it,” he said then of people trying to reach the 50 percent plus one number of opposition letters to stop that increase.

Good point. But as the voters proved last year, it’s much easier to replace NID board members than obtain thousands of opposition letters.

Stop the snark and up the transparency to gain our goodwill.

It’s just good advice — from one friend to another.

Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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