Pacifica may hike sewer rates to repay debt

The city plans to increase its sewer rates by almost 19 percent, but the decision comes at a time of concern about the safety of the sewage plant thathad recent spills and may soon share its facilities with a biodiesel refinery.

The rate hike comes at an inopportune time. Residents have been blaming the city for not notifying them about recent sewage spills that dumped 7.5 million gallons of partially treated sewage into Calera Creek and into the ocean during storms in January.

“As indicated by the recent sewer spill, the facility is still not working properly,” resident Jeffrey Simons said.

Many residents have also recently expressed concern about a biodiesel facility slated to be built next to the plant and share some of its facilities.

“This experimental refinery should not be hooked up to the experimental sewage treatment plant, let alone when it isn’t running properly,” said resident Frank Vella. “Now we hear our sewer costs will be going up.”

Pacifica’s City Council will vote Monday to declare its intent to raise the annual sewer rates from $384.50 to $456.70, an increase of 18.78 percent that will help the city repay the $51 million debt accrued in 1995 to build the Calera Creek wastewater treatment plant.

According to Ann Ritzma, director of administrative services, the city has to increase its payments on a loan from $2.1 million to $3.5 million annually to pay back the loan by 2022.

“We had anticipatedthis jump — we mentioned that this was coming,” Ritzma said.

City officials said rates will keep going up 3 percent to 5 percent annually because operating costs are expected to increase.

“You have to be honest with the public that an operation that runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is going to have costs associated with staffing, gas prices, and replacement,” Ritzma said.

The city will give residents 45 days to respond to the increases. A public hearing on the issue will be held in May.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

Sewer rates in other San Mateo County cities

Pacifica…..$456

Menlo Park…..$310

Daly City…..$447

Burlingame…..$607

Hillsborough…..$1,517

Average rate in county…..$602

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