DPU customers could see rate hike

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By The Staff

Department of Public Utilities customers could see an increase in their sewer rates soon.

During its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, the Board of Public Utilities will consider the DPU’s proposed increases to local sewer rates for both, individually and non-individually metered customers. The proposed increases are $.045, $0.70 and $1.10.

The proposed variable rate increase for all classes of customers is $0.45, while the proposed fixed charge increase of $0.70 would apply to residential customers that are non-individually metered; this increase would be charged per dwelling. In addition, the proposed fixed charge increase of $1.10 would be charged on a monthly basis to commercial and residential customers that are individually metered.

The existing two-part rate structure includes a fixed charge and a variable rate; a set rate applied to variable water usage. The fixed charge covers a customer connection to the DPU sewer system so that wastewater is effectively transported away from the customer site to be treated safely at local wastewater treatment facilities.

The variable rate reflects a customer’s magnitude of use, according to the DPU’s website.

These increases would change the fixed rate for individually metered customers to $13.10 per month, from $12 per month.

For non-individually metered customers, the fixed charge would change from $7.50 per dwelling, per month, to $8.20.

The variable rate for all classes of customers would change to $5.30 per 1,000 gallons of water, from $4.85 per 1,000 gallons, with a 2,000 gallon minimum.

“Part of the reason for the proposed increase is to cover a portion of the debt service on the new Los Alamos Wastewater Treatment Plant that began operation in 2007,” Tim Glasco, deputy utilities manager for Gas, Water & Sewer said.  “We are also proactively addressing existing sewer maintenance issues as our community ages. For instance, two lift stations to transport wastewater uphill, were replaced with modern equipment late last year in White Rock.”

Deputy Utilities Manager for Finance, Janet Bettinger, explained it further.

“We can estimate the impact of the proposed rate increase on an ‘average’ family of four with two young children in a single family detached dwelling, with 4,000 gallons of average wintertime monthly water use (a billing factor of 4),” she said. “The new fixed charge of $13.10, plus the new variable rate of $5.30 times 4 totaling $21.20, would bring monthly sewer charges to $34.30.  Under current rates, this same family would pay a fixed charge of $12, plus $4.85 times 4 totaling $19.40, for monthly sewer charges of $31.40.”

“In a case like this, the overall impact would be just under $3 per month,” she stated.

Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith defended the proposed increase.

“We wish to be good stewards of the environment, respectful of our neighboring communities by discharging cleaner water, by anticipating maintenance needs, preventing problems, and by expanding the use of effluent to reduce groundwater pumping,” Arrowsmith said.

Following a recommendation by the Utilities Board, the County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed sewer rate increase at a regular meeting.   

Local residents and ratepayers are welcome at either the 5:30 p.m. Monday Utilities Board meeting at the County Annex (901 Trinity), or at the 7 p.m. June 9 County Council meeting, or at both. Inquiries and comments may be sent to DPU@lacnm.us.