Despite their own misgivings and the anger of some local residents, the South Pasadena City Council voted Wednesday to raise water rates for the fifth time in less than five years.
Rates have nearly doubled in that time as the city pays for repairs to crumbling reservoirs and corroded water lines.
“I voted no because I think there’s a better way to do this,” Putnam said. “But I see no way to avoid this increase and I’m going to change my vote to yes.”
The city is raising rates to help pay off a $44 million water infrastructure bond issued in 2009.
Residents could have blocked the increase if the city received letters of protest from 3,480 property owners. On Wednesday night, City Clerk Sally Kilby announced the city had received only 97 protest letters.
Still, not everyone was happy. Resident Steve Weingarten, 23, said he has lived all his life in South Pasadena and that he hopes his current home will be his last.
“But [the city council is] making it very difficult around my household to balance the books,” he said.
The 14.5% increase is less than the 18% hike that was originally proposed.
Councilman Robert Joe said the city should look for ways to ease the cost to residents, but the city is still looking for ways to pay for repairs.
According to a staff report, the city is contemplating another 14.5% increase in January 2014 and a 3% bump a year later.
Currently, city water users are divided into three tiers, depending on how much water they use. Those who use more water pay at higher rates. Under the rate increase approved Wednesday, low-end water users who now pay $1.43 per unit will pay $1.64 per unit. High-end users who now pay $3.95 per unit will pay $4.53.
City officials are mulling a switch in 2014 to a billing system that would consider family size, lot size and other factors in determining tiers.
Public Works Director Paul Toor reported the city has made progress in designing restorations for the Garfield and Westside reservoirs. The Wilson Reservoir is under construction, he said, but more has to be done there than to the other two.
Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian said she understands what residents are going through, but said the increase is necessary.
“The reality is that the cost of water is going up. And it’s becoming a scarcer resource as our population grows and our water supply dwindles and as we try to sustain an ecosystem that’s not all that natural to our area,” she said. “This is not a decision that we’re making lightly at all.”