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Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District launches rate study; considers possible rate increase

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE, Calif. – The Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District has begun a study of its sewer and water rates ahead of potential rate increases later this year.

At its June 17 meeting, the district's board approved hiring the consulting firm NBS to conduct the study, according to General Manager Roland Sanford.

Sanford said the third-party study will help the district approach rate increases needed to address new treatment requirements as well as plan for upgrading its aging collection system.

Regarding the new treatment requirements, Sanford said that on July 1 a new drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium went into effect.

“This is going to be a huge expense for us, unfortunately,” he said.

He said the new requirement reduces acceptable hexavalent chromium amounts in drinking water to 10 parts per billion.

Sanford explained that when hexavalent chromium is present – sometimes it appears in well water – it will be necessary either to blend the well water with another water supply or build new treatment facilities.

Such facilities, he said, would use expensive technology and could run as much as $3 million to $4 million to construct.

“It’s a very significant cost for us,” Sanford said.

Another expensive project for the district is securing its water rights. Sanford said the process, which involves the State Water Resources Control Board, has been lengthy, and is expected to cost at least another $300,000.

Then there is the matter of the district's aging sewer collecting system, with those facilities reaching the end of their useful life and needing to be replaced. Sanford said the district needs to start preparing for that replacement.

The NBS study will be looking at what the district needs to do ahead and what it will cost. Sanford said the analysis will be a thorough one, and should be done by late August.

“It’s basically a numbers crunching exercise,” he said.

Just what the rate increases may look like won't be known until the study is done, he said, adding that the district also must decide what financing plan will work for its needed upgrades.

He said it would be nice to pay as they go, “But that's not going to be very practical.”

Other aspects of the study include a looks at the district's sewer and water rate structures to determine if they are equitable. He said the district wants to make it more economical for customers to conserve on water.

Part of the analysis also will be to compare the Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District's rates to other districts around Lake County. Sanford said the district appears to compare favorably to local peer agencies.

Once the study is done, the district will have at least one public workshop before beginning the process required for rate hikes under Proposition 218.

Approved by California voters in 1996, Proposition 218 sets out requirements for how affected ratepayers are noticed of potential hikes, sets restrictions on fees and requires majority approval of new or increased general taxes.

Sanford expects the Proposition 218 hearing should be scheduled in October. He said 50 percent of the affected ratepayers would have to protest the hikes to stop them.

The district is trying to get the word out and let residents now what is going on and why, he said.

He said that district ratepayers should keep an eye on the newsletter that accompanies billing inserts and visit the district Web site at http://www.hiddenvalleylakecsd.com/ for updates.

Sanford said district meetings are open to the public. Residents are encouraged to attend and give input on their concerns.

Email Elizabeth Larson at elarson@lakeconews.com . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.

 

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