The Clovis City Council voted 5-0 on Monday to raise fees and add a monthly surcharge to sewer bills starting in August, but not before hearing objections from local residents and business owners.
City officials said the increases are needed to cover the costs of building a sewage treatment and water recycling plant at Ashlan and Thompson avenues and making upgrades at the Fresno regional sewage treatment plant, in which the city has about an 11% ownership.
The facility on Ashlan was built on the expectation that the building boom would continue with thousands of new homes. But when the boom went bust, so did the city's hopes of collecting enough to cover the treatment plant costs.
Once residential construction picks up again, the city should consider providing rebates to customers who will see sewer bills climb by more than 50% this year alone, resident Dale Drozen said during a 45-minute public hearing preceding the council vote.
"I don't have a problem paying my fair share or paying a little more than my fair share, but I do object to being charged twice," he said. "When they turn around and build, we should get our money back when they pay the development fee."
The council's vote Monday adds a $7.30 monthly surcharge and an 8% rate hike starting in August.
The monthly surcharge -- which can be reduced, suspended or eliminated with council approval if development increases -- will help pay for the sewage treatment plant bonds. The additional rate increases will pay for the higher costs to operate and maintain the plant, said Mike Leonardo, the city's public utilities director.
Residential customers now pay $14.62 a month. In August, the rate will rise to $23.09 with the fee hike and surcharge. With planned annual increases, monthly sewer service will cost $28.14 by July 2014.
The sewage fee increase will come a month after Clovis water rates climb by 15%. Water rates also jumped 20% in January.