Jump in wastewater rates could plague Foster City 

Ironically, in a city filled with serpentine lagoons and solar-powered water circulators, getting water to flow through Foster City can be a costly enterprise.

Residents could be facing 8 percent increases in the rates for fresh water into their homes and wastewater out in the next fiscal year, according to a staff report released this week.

Each year, the city spends a quarter of a million dollars on electricity to power 49 lift stations that help pump wastewater away from homes and businesses.

Sewer service rates are increasing to pay for improvements and maintenance to the lifts system and expansions to the wastewater treatment plant the city shares with San Mateo.

"Sewer systems typically rely on gravity," City Manager Jim Hardy said. "But because Foster City is flat as a pancake, we need these lifts."

The City Council is holding a study session on the rate increase and other budget concerns Monday night.

"The cost of moving the wastewater through the system is higher because of all the additional pumping needed for all the waste water," Hardy said.

Single family homes pay a flat monthly rate of $35.13 for sewer service, but with the proposed 8 percent increase in the coming fiscal year would raise that almost three dollars to $37.94. The city is also looking at 8 percent increases in 2009 and 2010, bringing the rate up to $44.26 by the end of the decade.

In addition, the city is proposing an 8 percent increase in the cost of water to residents, to help pay for the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s $4.3 billion Water System Improvement Project. The city expects wholesale water costs to triple within the next seven or eight years, so they are beginning to raise rates now as part of a "rate smoothing" program.

Retired 23-year resident Wendy Wagner said the changes will hit fixed-income retirees and low-income residents the hardest, because even a small amount will hurt residents who live on tight or set budgets.

The study session will begin at 4 p.m. on Monday in council chambers, 620 Foster City Blvd.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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