SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Monterey One Water customers may soon be seeing their monthly costs double over the next five years. While the agency says it is a much needed increase, businesses are concerned it will make economic recovery harder.
Getting an underground tour of the waste water pump station in Seaside, you get a sense that things are a little worn down. It is a nearly 40 year old system, and while the technology in there is not completely outdated, Monterey One Water says it could be more modernized.
"We're in a tough marine environment. The sea salt and spray could lead to corrosion of our equipment, so we need to make sure that it's in good working order," said Mike McCullough, a spokesperson for Monterey One Water.
The agency says much of their infrastructure is reaching its useful lifespan. Capital reinvestment, improving the agency's financial strength and meeting personnel obligations like pension payouts are why Monterey One Water says they want to increase the rates on customers over five years.
According to a chart on their website, the agency outlines the rate increases would eventually double the cost per month for sewer services to most customers over that time period, after which the board will decide what to do next.
The monthly cost per apartment unit right now, for example, is $24.55. If approved, starting July 1 this year, the rate will be $36.05. It will be $54.45 in 2025.
"There has to be another way to get this need met without such a quick increase in the rates because it's going to be pretty onerous for almost everybody," said Peter Mounteer, a spokesperson for the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce.
The PG Chamber of Commerce says they understand the needs the water agency has. But given the pandemic economy, they worry businesses will end up pushing the extra costs to tourists and residents.
"We feel as though we're so close to the broad reopening, to implement something like this… it's going to be tough," said Mounteer.
There is still time for the public to weigh in, however. And the agency says they are willing to listen.
"We're just trying to get to where we think we need to be as far as the resources available to fix and address our infrastructure that we have," said McCullough.
The public comment period will last until June 7; that is when the Monterey One Water board of directors will have a budget workshop. The board will actually vote on the budget on June 28, and that is when they will ultimately decide whether to approve the rate increases as well.