Doug Vagim took a big step toward taking Fresno's higher water rates to the polls when he turned in eight boxes of petitions to the City Clerk's Office on Wednesday.
The former Fresno County supervisor said he and his supporters need the signatures of 4,829 registered voters to put the rates to a city vote in the November election. Vagim said the boxes contain 6,379 signatures.
The City Clerk's Office will process the petitions. The Fresno County Clerk's Office would verify the signatures. It might be weeks before Fresno knows if the initiative makes the ballot.
The City Council last year approved a series of residential and commercial water-rate hikes over three years to pay for a $410 million upgrade to Fresno's water system. Depending on consumption, a typical residential rate-payer could see a monthly bill that goes from about $24 in mid 2013 to about $48 by 2016.
Vagim has been fighting the hikes since the council took action. He says the planned system upgrade is too much too soon. He says ratepayers shouldn't be saddled with so much debt.
City officials say the rate hikes were met with support or indifference by the vast majority of Fresnans. They say Fresno has immense water needs and an excellent opportunity to secure a safe water supply well into the future. They say it all hinges on the planned upgrades.
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