Monday, November 16, 2009
SAN DIEGO San Diegans will find out Tuesday if their water rates will go up next year. But a local consumer advocacy group thinks the city’s water department made it difficult for customers to protest the increase.
The San Diego City Council will vote at its meeting tomorrow on whether to approve an increase in water rates of nearly 8 percent. The city is considering the rate increase because its suppliers have increased their prices. Water customers can protest the proposed increase by filling out a form and mailing it to the city clerk.
But the Utility Consumers Action Network says the water department hasn’t publicized the protest process. UCAN’s SueAnn Macomber says the forms mailed to customers could easily be mistaken for junk mail.
“When they bill us they send it first class mail. When they send out a protest form they send it in what I call junk mail, third class,” she says.
Macomber says the protest system is designed to fail. Jim Barrett is the director of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department. He says this is the third time the city’s had to increase rates because suppliers are raising their prices. He says there hasn’t been a problem with the protest forms before.
“The format, the graphics are all basically the same. So I’m surprised that now on the third time it’s being considered junk mail,” he says.
Barrett says the increase would generate the additional $30 million his department estimates the city will need to pay its water bill.
San Diegans will find out Tuesday if their water rates will go up next year. But a local consumer advocacy group thinks the city’s water department made it difficult for customers to protest the increase.