Needles Public Utility Agency Moving To Hike Water Service Rates

(December 1) Water in the wettest city in San Bernardino County is about to become more expensive.
The Needles Public Utilities Agency, a subdivision of the city of Needles, has notified its customers of its intention to up water rates, giving its customers the opportunity to protest the increase.  If a majority of the city’s property owners/water rate payers protest the rate increase in writing, the board for the utilities agency, which consists of the city council, will lose its authority to impose the rate increase.
Oral comments and protests will be heard at the city council’s January 14 council meeting to be held at the council chambers at 1111 Bailey Avenue in Needles. Needles lies along San Bernardino’s County’s East Coast, on the western bank of the Colorado River.
Currently, the city/utilities agency levies a $34.84 basic service charge on customers with five-eighths inch and three-quarters inch meters, which entitles them to up to 1,000 cubic feet of water per month. The proposed rate increase will take that monthly charge to $37.84. Those with one inch and one-and-a-half inch meters now pay $37.09 for 1,000 cubic feet of water per month and will see an increase to $40.09.
Those with a two inch meter water meter are currently paying $41.73. There bills would increase to $44.73.  Those customers utilizing over 1,000 cubic feet of water per month will be charged $1.49 for each 100 cubic feet of water utilized beyond the basic 1,000 cubic feet.
According to the city/utilities agency the rate increase is necessitated by an increase in  infrastructure and maintenance costs. “The water utility of the Needles Public Utilities Authority established an asset replacement reserve fund in early 2012,” the customer notice states.”Unfortunately the rate of accumulation of funds ($3 per month per customer) has proven insufficient to absorb the cost of an infrastructure failure or the current requirement for rehabilitation of a major waterworks component (well, pump, water main, reservoir). At this time the financial wherewithal to bring those components back in service will have to come primarily from operational cash flows. It is imperative that the asset replacement reserve fund rate of accumulation be accelerated immediately to shore up the water utility’s vulnerability to extended downtime due to infrastructure failure.”
At the time it established the asset replacement reserve fund, the Needles Board of Public Utilities/city council intended to accrue a reserve fund of $350,000. Officials now are seeking to add the additional $3 per month per customer charge to produce a minimum reserve fund of $750,000 to fund the water department’s four-year plan to rehabilitate four water  storage tanks. There is a proviso that the fund shall continue to accumulate until such time as the Needles Board of Public Utilities/city council decides to suspend or reduce the accumulation of funds.

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