On a night that saw the Texas Rangers take a 3-2 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, El Dorado Irrigation District General Manager Jim Abercrombie had a quiet evening at the Cameron Park Community Center.
He came to explain the newly completed Cost of Services study and answer questions. The audience for the Oct. 24 evening workshop totaled 14 plus assorted EID officials.
The Cost of Services study and its allocation of overhead and other costs among sewer treatment, potable water and recycled water generated little discussion among the audience.
The proposed change in rate structure from 30 percent base charges and 70 percent usage charges to a 50-50 split brought the most questions and comment. The 30-70 split was implemented in 2009. The EID board has endorsed going back to the 50-50 plan, though Director George Osborne remains opposed.
“The 50-50 plan is unringing the bell to what we charged in 2008,” said Abercrombie. “The 50-50 cost recovery creates a more reliable revenue. It improves our financial forecasting. It is not subject to the weather.”
“A lot of things bothered me, going back to the unjust system. Your 50-50 plan hurts low water users,” said Cameron Park attorney Erik J. Davenport. “Those conserving get penalites.”
“What you’re looking at is a rate system to solve your problem,” Davenport said. “It increases costs to customers. This is another way to increase rates. It’s upside-down. It will impact the lowest income residents. We ought to have an ‘Occupy EID.’”
Cameron Park resident Greg Prada, who had been a member of the Cost of Services committee, said he favors the 50-50 plan.
“For any El Dorado Hills ratepayers it clearly is advantageous. It is not in the customers’ interest to go 70-30,” Prada said.
Most of the audience handed in wrtten questions.
One question card said, “50-50 hurts small users and helps developers.”
Abercrombie responded, “Developers don’t pay water bills.”
Another question suggested a flat rate to include both water and flushing, but Abercrombie said, “That’s not transparent,” meaning nobody would know how much water costs versus sewer service.
Another card asked how much water EID has. Abercrombie said the district has 65,000 acre-feet and delivers 40,000. It is pursuing another 17,000 acre-feet and was allocated 15,000 acre-feet by an act of Congress, but has yet to obtain those.
“It’s an asset we own and we’ll do our best to protect that,” Abercrombie said.
Another card asked why sewer rates were going up when costs were going down. Abercrombie responded that debt service cost is rising.
“We’re not a profit center. Proposition 218 says rate revenue cannot exceed the needs,” Abercrombie said.
Former EID Director Al Vargas of El Dorado Hills said that water use increases as the elevation decreases and asked about charging differently by location.
“We operate the system as one system and one rate for the entire system,” Abecrombie replied.
El Dorado Hills used to be charged more for water service because its water is pumped from Folsom Lake instead of being delivered by gravity flow. A couple of years ago Director Harry Norris of El Dorado Hills convinced the board to drop the pumped surcharge and charge one rate for all customers. At the time it was noted that some sections of Pollock Pines get pumped water.
At the request of a resident of Four Seasons development off White Rock Road, Abercrombie promised to appear there next week and tailor his presentation for them, with specific water consumption figures for that development.