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For Immediate Release

Seismic Upgrade of Water Pipeline, Rebuild of Sewage Treatment Plant Lead to Proposed Rate Increases

Redwood City, CA - March 14, 2012 - A safe, stable water supply and a dependable sewage collection and treatment system are two of the most basic, critical services provided to the community by Redwood City. No one wants to turn on their faucet and see it run dry, or experience a sewer line break in their neighborhood. When the next big earthquake hits, having these systems in a condition to resist damage is of utmost importance. Redwood City is constantly working to ensure these systems are up-to-date, dependable, and safe. Water and sewer rates pay for these services, and those rates are used only for these services. However, there are significant and escalating costs involved with making sure the community’s water and sewer services are readily available and in good working order. When the City’s cost of providing these services goes up, the rates must be raised in order to fund those escalating costs.

To fund the rising costs of providing these services, the City Council of Redwood City is considering a 12% increase in water rates (about $4 per month for a typical household), and a  9% increase for residential sewer rates (about $5 per month; commensurate increases are proposed for commercial sewer accounts, based on water usage and business type).

The Council will consider these proposed rate increases at a public hearing on Monday, May 7, 2012, at 7 pm at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road.

Additionally, prior to the May public hearing a community information meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at 7 pm, at the Public Works Services building, 1400 Broadway. There, the community can get information on water and sewer services provided, the ongoing maintenance and improvement projects, and the proposed rate increases.

A notice of this proposed rate increase is being mailed to all property owners, and includes information on the procedure for protesting the proposal. That, and more information about the proposed rate increases, can be found www.redwoodcity.org/water.

The City staff and Council fully understand that these difficult economic times are a struggle for many people, and share your anxiety about escalating monthly bills. While any rate increase is unpleasant, hopefully this proposal is not a surprise, as over the last few years the City has continually reiterated to the community that annual increases would be necessary for the foreseeable future, due to those increasing costs. Even with these proposed increases, Redwood City’s rates will still be at or below the average for Peninsula communities, and the community will be assured of the most dependable water and sewer services possible.

There are a number of major regional and local projects to upgrade and protect water and sewer systems, which are driving these proposed rate increases. For the sewer system, those projects include:

  • $200 million over the next ten years for Redwood City’s share of the replacement of outdated facilities at the regional sewage treatment plant
  • $100 million over the next ten years for the repair/replacement of the City’s aging sewer infrastructure

For the water system, projects include:

  • $80 million over the next 20 years for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of Redwood City’s drinking water system
  • $10 million annually over the next 30 years for Redwood City’s share of the seismic upgrade of the Hetch Hetchy water system, our community’s sole-source of drinking water (in the form of regular and significant increases in the wholesale cost of water) 

This year, the wholesale cost of water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC, owners of the Hetch Hetchy water system) will be raised by 10%. These wholesale rates have been raised annually, and often quite significantly (38% last year, for example).The City tries to “smooth out” those sharp, unpredictable increases by approving more steady, moderate increases each year – most often lower than SFPUC’s annual increase, sometime a little higher, like this year – to avoid the drastic “see-saw” range of increases imposed by that agency. This smoothing-out is done with a rate stabilization fund, reserves which come from the rates paid by customers, allowing the City to keep pace, over time, with the actual costs of providing a high quality, dependable water supply to the community. As a result, we’ve implemented average annual increases of about 8-10% over the last few years, instead of much higher increases on a more periodic basis.

In the coming years, Redwood City will continue to see additional rate increases proposed for both water and sewer services, in order to meet the increasing costs of providing these services. While such increases are challenging, they are unavoidable and urgently needed in order to ensure our community has quality water and sewer systems.

Visit Redwood City’s award-winning website at www.redwoodcity.org for information about the City and its services, the community, recreation programs, education, and local business. Subscribe to Redwood City’s electronic newsletter or other City documents at www.redwoodcity.org/egov.  

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Contact:
Marilyn Harang, Interim Director
Interim Assistant Public Works Director
650-780-7477

 

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