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El Dorado Irrigation District floats new water plan

Residents torpedo 35-percent rate hike
By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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The El Dorado Irrigation District has come up with a “plan B” rate increase. Hundreds of angered residents have turned out for public meetings to voice their concerns over EID’s initial rate hike of 35 percent in 2010 followed by increases of 15 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in each year from 2012 through 2014 — a cumulative increase of 85 percent. The new plan calls for an 18 percent increase or less, for water, wastewater and recycled water services in 2010 with 15 percent increase in 2011 and 5 percent in 2012. “Customers have made it clear they won’t tolerate 35-percent rate increases in 2010, and at our public workshops we’ve heard lots of constructive suggestions on how to ease that rate shock,” said Jim Abercrombie, the district’s general manager. He said the district has also been looking for a way to increase revenue that it generates from selling hydroelectric power and are in talks with Pacific Gas & Electric, however the details are “confidential,” Abercrombie said. “We have made enough headway to now project greater revenues. And we went back to the drawing board to see if we could find ways to extend our debt payments, defer even more capital improvement projects, and reduce our operating costs yet again,” Abercrombie said. “We’ve identified changes we can make in these categories, and those changes would allow us to meet our financial obligations with lower rate increases.” Last year the district projected 14 million in new hook up (revenue), but received only 1 million. Additionally the agency projected 62.5 million in overall revenue with a revised projected of 55.49 million. The gap to be filled in EID’s budget is reportedly $13 million. Former EID board member Al Vargas said that mismanagement and over-spending created the current financial fiasco. “They added staff from around 180 to more than 300 employees in less than five years,” Vargas said at one of the community meetings held to discuss the initial proposed rate hike. “And they reworked the (CalPers) retirement system so that the payout would be (significantly) greater.” This news is not sitting well with some EID residential ratepayers. “They screwed it up and want us to bail them out?” said Brad Henley of Cameron Park. “This is just ridiculous.” Abercrombie said the rate increases are necessary. “We can’t meet our legal debt services requirements, put the district on a sound financial footing, and continue to provide safe, reliable services without increased rates,” he said. “But the increases can be smaller than we proposed two months ago.” A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 4 at the El Dorado Adventist School Gym, 1900 Broadway in Placerville.