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The Watchdog
Amador Water Agency Botches Rate Notice

About RPA
Ratepayer Protection Alliance (RPA) was formed to support the rights of the people of Amador County against unfair rate increases, which are usually used to subsidize special interests. Recently, RPA has assisted citizens who successfully protested several water rate increases. RPA is committed to ensuring that water, wastewater and garbage rates in Amador County are justified, and do not unfairly burden local residents.

RPA works hard to minimize costs of informing the public of unfair rate increases. RPA operates on the donated time of volunteers and no one is paid for their efforts. Donations for postage costs can be sent to:
Ratepayer Protection Alliance
P.O. Box 51
Pine Grove CA 95665

Amador Water Agency Botches Rate Notice

On June 10, Amador Water Agency General Manager Gene Mancebo received a letter from attorney Eric Benink, representing AWA water customers. The letter explained the confusion caused by numerous conflicting notices that AWA has sent to its customers. Benick demanded that AWA mail a new notice with the correct information and postpone the June 18th rate hearing. Based on information AWA sent to customers, it is impossible to know how much the “typical” ratepayer’s bill will change.

In the notices, AWA explained how much change a typical user could expect to see in their water bill. However, Benink’s letter points out that almost all of AWA customers received notices with information that conflicted with the information in the rate study. As an example, the rate study says that “typical” Sutter Creek user rates will increase by $0.83/month. The official 218 notice notified those ratepayers the increase would be $0.80/month. Then AWA sent a rate sheet in the water bills that said rates would go down by $7.62/month. AWA sent a letter apologizing for the error and sent another rate sheet that did not make an estimate of the change. Instead they left it to the customer to figure it out. If the customer took the time to do the math, they would have come up with an increase of $2.22/month. One day later, those same people were sent a flier that said rates would increase by $2.23/month.

Sutter Creek property and business owner Kathy Allen explained, “Each AWA mailing would say something different than the time before and each time I read one of them I thought to myself that I was paying for all of these mailings!”

Some Sutter Creek ratepayers were also sent an erroneous rate sheet in their bills that told them the “typical” increase would be $2.01/month. Upcountry and Camanche ratepayers were also sent information with different “typical” rate changes than what the rate study indicated they would get.

“AWA has a long history of generating different numbers for the same thing, but this is the most outrageous example I have ever seen…anywhere. They came up with 5 different numbers for the same ‘typical’ increase,” said long time Sutter Creek resident David Evitt.

On June 11, AWA General Manager Gene Mancebo responded to Benink’s letter. Mancebo claimed that monthly medians were refined in direct response to customer comments. He also explained why those refinements resulted in different “typical” household rate increases or decreases. Some customers received 5 different notices each having a different “typical” increase amount on it. Mancebo did not say which of the notices had the correct information for a typical increase. He did admit that the notice showing a rate reduction sent to Sutter Creek residents was an error by the printing and mailing company.

RPA member Ken Berry commented, "If AWA still cannot figure out what you're going to be paying after five different tries, how in the world are you going to be able to understand this mess? Since they don't seem to know what they need, except more money from ratepayers, I guess they will figure out how to spend it later.”

Former AWA Director Debbie Dunn said, "A rate increase just shouldn't be this hard. After months of study and review by AWA, an ad hoc committee, hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple consultants trying to figure out how to fund this agency, the public deserves a simple straightforward explanation of what they need to pay. Why can't the public have that? All of their money that AWA has spent on this rate study and they still don't know what the public is going to pay. What a disaster!"

AWA will now have a choice whether to proceed with the hearing on June 18th or start the process over with accurate information. You can attend the hearing at the Supervisors’ Chambers in Jackson at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, June 18.

Please forward this message to others in Amador County and help us get the word out!

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