Monday, 15 July 2024

Lucerne mobilizes again on water issues

LUCERNE – As concerns begin to mount about potential new rate increases for Lucerne's water system, two groups who focus on the town's water issues will host a community meeting this week.

Lucerne residents will meet Saturday, Aug. 18, to discuss the latest rate increase requested by California water service (CWS). The meeting will be at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, country club Drive at 10th Ave., at 12:30 p.m.

Lucerne Community Water Organization and LucerneFLOW sponsor the meeting. They offer a 50-percent rebate on breakfast at the senior center to those who attend the meeting. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to noon and costs $6. Both organizations will open nominations for new members of their boards of directors. Elections will be in September.

The current application from CWS affects several other of their water districts in California, including Chico, Salinas, East Los Angeles, Livermore, Los Altos, Mid-Peninsula, Stockton and Visalia, with requested increases ranging from 21.3 percent in Lucerne to 49 percent in Chico.

The company serves about 500,000 customers in California and has districts in New Mexico, Washington State and Hawaii.

The CPUC public advisor's office said this week that organizations or individuals which wish to intervene in the case must file a notice of intent within 30 days of the CPUC pre-hearing conference, which has not yet been scheduled.

The company said the current request is necessary because the California public utilities commission (CPUC) is attempting to streamline its process, and the next general rate increase will not be filed until July 1, 2009, with rates agreed on from that filing to be effective Jan. 1, 2011 or later.

The purpose of the current filing is to pass on to the rate payers centralized services costs in 2008 but delay the next general rate increase until January 1, 2011. Cal Water filed a General Rate Case for the Redwood Valley District's Lucerne system in August 2005, which resulted in a 121-percent rate increase that became effective in August 2006.

Because of discounts negotiated when attorney Steve Elias intervened before the CPUC on behalf of Lucerne, most ratepayers saw increases of about 65 percent. The company had asked for a 246-percent general increase.

Centralized services costs include payroll, benefits (including employee health care and pension costs), taxes, transportation/fuel, and facilities maintenance that are common to all operating areas.

In contrast, the General Rate Case review examines local costs specific to each district, such as local operation and maintenance expenses, plus a reasonable return to the company and its stockholders for the investments in infrastructure, including water treatment facilities, main replacements, wells, and storage tanks.

On Aug. 1, the San Jose corporation announced its second quarter 2007 financial results and declared its 251st consecutive quarterly dividend. The dividend per common share is $0.37, compared with $.31 per common share in the second quarter of 2006. Net income was reported at $7.7 million, up from $5.7 million for the second quarter of 2006.

Revenues increased by $14.7 million, or 18%, to $95.8 million, attributed to a $9.9 million increase in water sales to existing customers, a $4 million increase in rates, and $0.8 million in sales to new customers.

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