May 31, 2013

Rural water customers could face higher fees

By Courtney Vaughn
Hi-Desert Star

MORONGO BASIN — Residents in three areas of the Morongo Basin could be getting higher water bills soon.

The county Board of Supervisors will review rate increases for county water customers in Morongo Valley, Landers and Pioneertown Tuesday, on behalf of the county’s special districts department of water and sanitation.

Property owners were mailed notices of the proposed rate hikes in each of the county’s four local districts. Increases would vary in each district.

In Landers, County Service Area W-1, monthly fees are proposed to jump 19 percent and customers will be charged $1.05 more per unit of water. In Pioneertown, customers with a 1-inch meter will pay 33 percent more every month if the plan goes through.

Morongo Valley has two water districts operated by the county. In Little Morongo Heights, the current monthly fee of $57.25 will jump to $58.78 and consumption rates will go up $2.07 per unit over last year’s rates. Customers who enter the second tier of water use will pay $2.55 more per unit of water than last year.

Morongo Valley’s other district, CSA 70, zone W-3, would be affected the least, with monthly fees increasing less than $2 and consumption-fee hikes of about 10 cents per unit.

A letter to customers states the higher rates will help the county establish an operations contingency fund and replacement reserves in each district to cover the cost of repairs and daily operations.

Citizens’ groups have mounted opposition to the proposed fee increases, gathering signatures of property owners for petitions.

Landers ratepayers have submitted a request to Supervisor James Ramos’s office, asking the Board of Supervisors to delay the vote to allow for more time to gather signatures from customers.