City council continues water rate discussions

By Terrance Vestal

High-capacity restaurants could seek breaks in their bills

As the city mulls adjustments to sewer and water rates, the council Monday added a new category for larger restaurants that seat more than 100 people.
David Grah, director of Public Works, said the new rates would recognize restaurants with outside seating, which are used only part of the time in the year, and those restaurants with more than 100 seats that might be used only during peak times of the year.
The recommendations are based on a study by the city’s Sewer and Water Commission that forecasts the water and sewer systems from 2019 to 2024. The city’s Sewer and Water Commission was established in 2004 and has been involved in subsequent rate reviews in 2008 and in 20013. Rate reviews cover a five-year period.
Glenn Taylor, vice chairman of the commission, has said rates are based on the short-term forecast costs of providing water and sewer services to city customers. Costs forecasts are broken up into four categories: salaries and benefits, service and supplies, capital equipment and capital improvements. Then a determination is made as to how to distribute those costs for services equitably.
Grah said under the proposed rate schedule the restaurants pay the regular sewer and water rate of a single-family home, which works out to be about $6.90 per seat per month. With the new proposed rates, outdoor seating and seating beyond 100 would be charged $3.45 per those seats.
“The rate is based on capacity, not on the number of customers in a restaurant,” Grah said. “People have legitimate reasons when they complain. No system is going to be absolutely fair across the board. We are always trying to move in a direction to improve that equity.”
If the city adopts the new rate adjustments, restaurants that fit the new categories could see a break in their bills after July 1019. The proposed rates include no rate increase for any restaurants during the first fiscal year of July 2019 through July 2020, Grah said.
Grah said the city council wants to “support high visitor days and try to support those big days in Bishop. They (the council) also wants to provide something a little more palatable when those seats are empty during part of the year.”
At Monday’s meeting, Grah said the savings that the restaurants would see would reduce the annual revenue by about $2,700 in water and about $3,300 in sewer.
“Theoretically this would mean an increase in rates by about 17 cents per month for a single-family residence,” Grah said. “That amount is well within the accuracy of the city water/sewer study so there would be no impact on the single-family residence rates.”
Council members agreed that while the proposed rate schedule might not be perfect “it’s a step in the right direction towards equity.”
Before the city can adopt new rates by state law it must hold a public hearing with a 45-day notice before the hearing is held.
A public hearing on the new rates has been set for the city council meeting of Feb. 25.
State law prohibits an agency such as the city of Bishop from implementing new fees if a majority of property owners – not customers – protest the change to the new fees.