Atascadero facing another water rate increase

December 27, 2011

Grigger Jones

Atascadero residents could see their water rates go up another 7.5 percent if officials at the Atascadero Mutual Water Company have their way. [AtascaderoNews]

On Jan. 11, the Atascadero Mutual Water Company (AMWC) Board will discuss if the rate increase is needed to continue to cover the city’s obligations to the Nacimiento Water Project. AMWC General Manager John Neil told the Atascadero News the rate increase is necessary because of the continuing recession.

“AMWC’s Nacimiento Water Project debt service payments are $2.6 million per year and operating and maintenance costs are $782,000 per year,” Neil said. “AMWC had intended to pay the entire debt service through the sale of new meters, which have historically averaged about 120 per year since the 1970s. We are currently selling approximately 20 meters per year.”

In Jan. 2011, the rates went up 15 percent outraging many residents. At the time, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Jim Patterson wanted the board to vote in a lower increase and revisit the issue in a year.

“I think the rates are justified,” Patterson told the Atascadero News. “What I had suggested was that they raise it a lower amount now but increase the rate later in subsequent years. I asked him why they didn’t do that, but they wanted to be sure they didn’t fall too far behind.”

The board elected instead to raise the rates in Jan. 2011 by the proposed 15 percent while also agreeing to revisit rate prices a year later.

The board consists of members Brien Vierra, D. Frank Platz, Jackie Lerno, Robert “Grigger” Jones and Leroy Davis. Both Jones and Lerno’s husband Ken Lerno were former business partners of then North County developer Kelly Gearhart, one of the primary suspects in a four-year FBI investigation into organized crime.

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Grigger Jones looks like John King without the hat, doesn’t he?



You’re on a “local water board?!” I thought you were CCC staff because your moniker looked like an abbreviation for “North County Moderator.” I guess that means you’re not Dan Blackburn. Ha!

Wait and see if this happens, now that the rates have been increased and consumers will use less water the water company will in turn raise the amount they are currently charging for water. Mark my words and wait 12 to 18 months.

Don’t you love it? Don’t cut back just raise the rates. “The rate increase is necessary because of the continuing recession.” Well of course, just raise the rates and add to the grief of everyone in town to pay an increased bill and the water company will not have to suffer from the recession. The people of Atascadero should hold these Board of Directors accountable to the shareholders, every property owner in town, and not to themselves and their benefit packages., new vehicles and lavish quarters.

You can be critical of the City of Atascadero but at least they are trying with benefit and salary reductions. What has your water company done for you?

I can be critical of the City of Atascadero because I grew up here. Lived here my entire life. I am 50 years old. I have seen the good and the bad here. They want to raise water rates because they are greedy bastages who want to protect their own financial interests.

ANYTHING that has Grigger Jones’ name on it is suspect to me.

The water board is made up of directors elected by district shareholders. If Atascaderans want change in their water board then they have the power to change the makeup at the next election. It’s as simple as that.

As a director of another local water board though, I will tell you that it isn’t as simple as it appears. There are state and federal water quality guidelines that must be met….even when common sense tells you that the guidelines don’t always make sense.

There are drought reliability standards that must be met. There are environmental standards that must be met, replacing transite pipe with PVC, etc.

Our monthly meetings go on and on with making decisions and we’re lucky to have 3 people in the audience. But put out a notice for any type of rate or service change and they turn out with pitchforks and torchs. And in our case at least, we’re all unpaid volunteers.

I’m not saying a bad decision wasn’t made here, I don’t know the details that led up to the decison. I imagine that the decision to participate in the Nacimiento project was connected to drought reliability which by defenition must obtain water from an outside source. With the Naci pipeline passing next to Atascadero’s treatment plant, it’s a natural. Naci project planning was done years ago when the economy was growing and now it’s not.

I agree with some of what you say I as sat on a water board during the Naci acquisition also.

I had questions to my fellow board members that had been on the board for decades and the manager. I was met with or we will deal with that later and its not the time to discuss that.

We all need to get the water from Naci, that’s a no brain-er, but there was know and unknown hidden costs that many knew and it should have been discussed but it would have driven the costs way up and it was already a project with financial challenges.

Oh, I have no doubt there will be changes at the next election. Change is most definately coming!

Ask for an accounting if you want to know where your money is going. The citizens of atascadero are entitled. Perhaps you have received one already