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The Watchdog
AWA Consolidation Raises Rates, Hinders Future Protests

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

AWA Consolidation Raises Rates, Hinders Future Protests

On Tuesday evening, June 18, the Amador Water Agency Board of Directors conducted the mandatory Proposition 218 public hearing for final consideration and adoption of their latest rate increase proposal. After counting over a thousand written protests and in spite of four pages of legal issues raised the Ratepayer Protection Alliance (RPA), the board of directors unanimously adopted the new consolidated rate structure at a continuation hearing Thursday morning. Because of AWA’s action, ratepayers who receive no benefit from the GSL will receive rate increases. Worst of all, the consolidation will most likely prevent any future protests against rate increases. Without legal action to reverse the board’s decision, the ratepayers are now fully at the mercy of the AWA.

General Manager Gene Mancebo opened Tuesday evening's hearing by requesting that longtime AWA consultant Bob Reed provide a brief overview of the new rate structure up for adoption. Close to 60 residents attended, and the AWA board took public comment for nearly two hours. A vast majority of the speakers opposed the rate proposal. Comments indicated a basic mistrust of the agency, who had misinformed 1100 Sutter Creek residents that their rates would decrease when in fact they would increase. Speakers also questioned whether the GSL provides any benefit to current ratepaying residents.

RPA member Bill Condrashoff presented four pages of written comments from RPA. He offered to read or summarize the questions into public record and was refused. Upon verbal encouragement from the audience and acknowledgement from several board members, Condrashoff returned to the podium and summarized, citing multiple inaccuracies and unjustified charges in the rate study, ratepayer costs that are not proportional to benefits, and a questionable Prop 218 process. Before Condrashoff was finished, President Molinelli interrupted him on a time restriction.

With a motion on the floor to adopt the resolution, AWA attorney Steve Kronick interrupted to recommend that the Board continue the hearing to give Reed a chance to address RPA's concerns.

Thursday morning, June 20, the hearing resumed with Reed providing an overview of six pages responding to RPA. Attorney Kronick provided an additional five page response. Molinelli asked the board whether the public should be allowed to speak again. The board, having no questions regarding the eleven pages of written material, agreed to reopen the public comment period.

With the continuation meeting noticed only 24 hours in advance, and scheduled for a Thursday morning, only ten residents attended. The majority of speakers were against consolidating rates. Camanche attendees stated that a majority of their residents had submitted written protests and asked why those protests weren’t being honored thus excluding Camanche from the consolidation.

Director Gary Thomas, who represents Ione and Camanche, brought up the topic of debt service payment for future system improvements. For the last year, AWA has vowed in a variety of public settings that projects unique to a system will bear their own debt service. The AWA staff and board have touted that only Upcountry users will pay for the Gravity Supply Line. Director Thomas wanted to know if Camanche users would ever have to pay for projects not on their systems. Attorney Kronick attempted to explain the multitude of ways debt service can be paid. Director Rich Farrington stated that decisions on future projects are for future boards to make and he would not make their decisions today. Audible groans sounded from the audience and multiple questions arose.

Nearing 10:30 a.m., the board unanimously adopted the new rates which take effect July 1.

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