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Why Alhambra’s sewer rates have gone up

Photo via Flickr user Seth Tisue licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

The Alhambra City Council voted unanimously to raise sewer rates during their July 23 meeting.

The increased rates would be used to fund sewer system upgrades mandated by a 2015 court judgment that Alhambra incurred from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board for dumping pollutants into local bodies of water.

The City of Alhambra was required to mail a notice of increase to every account holder and property owner in the city. Residents would’ve been able to stop the increase if a majority of rate-payers had submitted written protests against it. According to Martin Ray, Alhambra’s director of utilities, 55 letters of opposition were received, out of 16,757 parcel owners with an active service connection.

Andre Ransons, who owns multiple units in Alhambra, spoke out against the increase, accusing the city of wasting taxpayer money. “I’m just kind of wondering what you did with all of the profits you made from the water bills,” he said. “None of that went to the sewer tax.”

Other residents asked why such an increase couldn’t be used on repairing alleys, street sweeping and other city services and infrastructure repairs. Ray clarified that while rate payers were charged for multiple services on one bill, like trash pickup and water usage, the city wasn’t allowed to take funds generated from one type of service and put it towards another.

Mayor Jeff Maloney said that while he didn’t like to raise taxes, he wanted to avoid a catastrophe like the UCLA water main break in 2014. “I look at this as something we don’t love doing but it’s absolutely necessary to do,” he said.

Maloney also praised ideas from another resident, Michael Scaduto, who suggested that households reuse greywater, or wastewater not generated from toilet usage, to conserve and avoid high cost increases. Scaduto, who introduced himself as a civil engineer, also suggested that the city base the rate increase on winter water usage, instead of year-round usage, since most of that goes to landscaping rather than the sewer system.

The City Council also authorized the issuance of up to $9 million in bonds to fund sewer upgrades.

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