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Santa Rosa council backs water rate increase

The Santa Rosa City Council voted Tuesday to support paying 5 percent more for the water it buys from the Sonoma County Water Agency, agreeing that the increase was necessary to build reserves for large upcoming construction projects.

The council voted 5-2 to support the increase, with council members Gary Wysocky and Julie Combs voting against it. Both said the increase didn't seem justified given the history of ever-increasing local utility rates.

"The case has not been made to me," Wysocky said.

Under the plan, the wholesale price of water would increase from $672 per acre-foot of water to $705.

When passed on to ratepayers, the higher costs should result in about 2.1 percent higher water bills, or 71 cents per month in the winter or $1.49 per month in summer for an average household, according to city officials.

Water Agency officials said the increases were necessary to avoid future rate spikes by setting aside money for projects such as fish habitat improvements in Dry Creek, which could cost the agency upwards of $140 million.

Mayor Scott Bartley said the proposal was "prudent" given the required upcoming construction projects.

"I'm comfortable with it. I'm not thrilled with it," Bartley said.

Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said she believed water rates were too low, agreeing with a speaker that they are not high enough to sufficiently encourage conservation.

The recommendation will be passed onto the board that advises the agency's board of directors, advice that is not binding.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.


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