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Rate increase rejected, not gone 

Paso Robles voters turned down a rate increase to pay for water from Lake Nacimiento and the pipeline that will bring it to homes. Despite the vote, city officials will still push for a new rate structure and won’t stop until they’re successful.

Measure A-09 failed by 481 votes, according to county election results. The measure would have increased the average monthly household water bill from $43.08 to $68.20 over the next five years. It was the fourth modified rate plan city officials have proposed in the last two years, all of which have failed, said City Administrator Jim App. In 2004, the city developed a rate structure that would have allowed regular rate increases to eventually total up to $36 per month above the previous structure. But city officials need up to $60 per month extra from residents, according to a news release App sent out the morning following the election.

App said city officials will soon be going to voters again with a new rate structure that will probably be tiered so heavy water users have to pay more. Without new rates, he said, the city will soon be paying for Nacimiento water they won’t have. Once the pipeline is completed—probably about mid-2010—the city will be billed for its share of the water, about $5.5 million per year. But the city also needs a treatment plant in order to use the water. Effectively, once the bills start coming in, the city will have to pay for water it’s not receiving and can’t yet afford.

“It becomes quite a quagmire a couple years out,” App said.

Assuming residents agree to a rate increase sometime in 2010, he added, the city still won’t be able to receive its share of the water for another two years.

Mayor Duane Picanco said voters rejected the measure because of the struggling economy, residents’ fixed incomes, and misinformation and confusion leading to the election.

Only 37 percent of the city’s 14,562 registered voters turned out for the vote.

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