The Chula Vista City Council at its Dec. 17 meeting is set to consider its first rate increase in three years for nearly 250,000 residents to offset the rising cost of treating wastewater, rehabilitation of pipes and basic operations, and to build a Point Loma Reserve Fund.
The proposed increase would be 5.7 percent per year for the next five years.
The reserve fund would set aside money should the city of San Diego not receive a waiver to continue operating the Point Loma treatment plant at an advance primary level, which is a method of treating water with chemicals to separate organic matter from solids in wastewater.
The waiver is set to expire in 2015. However, if the waiver is renewed there may be other conditions that may require the use of more funds, which then will come out of the Point Loma Reserve fund, said senior civil engineer for the city of Chula Vista Roberto Yano.
Yano said about 40 percent of the additional revenue generated from the rate increase will go toward the rising cost of treatment of wastewater, while 22 percent is for the rehabilitation of sewer pipes, another 22 percent is to build the Point Loma reserve fund and the rest of the money would be spent on operations and resources.
He said on average, Chula Vista pays the city of San Diego about $20 million a year to treat its wastewater at a treatment plant in Point Loma, where wastewater is released back into the ocean after it’s cleaned.
Yano said more money is also needed to keep up with the maintenance of old and damaged pipes throughout the city.
In prior years, he said, the city would invest about $ 1.8 million a year to make the pipes sustainable, but he said a recent analysis showed that the city actually needs $3.8 million per year to rehab existing pipes.
“We’re under-investing in our system,” Yano said. “We slowly want to increase the money into our rehab, but not too much because we understand times are difficult.”
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said she understands why a sewer hike needs to happen.
“There is a need for a sewer rate increase,” she said. “We cannot continue operations on our sewer system without the increase.”
If the city council approves the proposal, the rate hike will go into effect on July 1, 2014.