Sensitive about the County's wish to raise their water rates, customers in Southern Inyo said they were alarmed to see a price hike in water service this week. Inyo Public Works Director Ron Chegwidden said the dollar plus increase comes from a requirement in a county ordinance that calls for a consumer price index raise annually.
Citizens who phoned us said they did not recall this increase in the past, but Chegwidden said, "it occurred last year and since 2005 when the Supervisors enacted the ordinance." Asked if this raise violates Proposition 218, Chegwidden said he did not have an answer on that. He did say that Prop. 218 "might have a bearing on rates enacted by the Board.
Prop. 218 requires that customers be allowed to object to rate increases. If a majority does oppose the raise, it won't happen, according to law. Chegwidden confirmed that the County has solicited proposals for an overall rate study involving the operation of the systems and capital improvements. He said that the results will be presented to the residents. Chegwidden also said that any rate increase proposed would be subject to the Prop. 218 process.
Officials had discussed that the rate study would cost around $70,000. Some citizens contend that the purpose of the County taking over the water systems from DWP was to keep rates low so that the environment, impacted by groundwater pumping, could receive plenty of irrigation water.
The depressed society of Southern Inyo includes citizens who say that water rate increases could mean that they will abandon yards and gardens because they won't be able to afford the water bills.