OCEANO - Raising rates could be the only option left on the table for the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, according to one of three District Board members.
The District is appealing a $1.1 million dollar fine it received for illegal sewage discharges back in December of 2010.
There have also been reported discharges in recent months that the District characterizes as "exceedances", or treated sewage that exceeds mandated limits for safety.
The State Water Board has determined the District's aging facilities need to be repaired, replaced or modernized.
Capital improvements that will cost money the District may not have, according to one District Board member.
"The reserves are depleted down to a little over $3 million", says District Board member Matt Guerrero, "the District has lost about a million dollars each year and it needs to be addressed as a business model and an obligation to rate payers, what do you do about it? Do you rip the band-aid off and cut costs or do you raise fees?"
Sanitation rates in the South County are among the lowest on the Central Coast but that's likely to change if other revenue sources, such as recycling water, can't be found.
"They (rates) have not been raised in a long time, and it could happen", Guerrero says, "its something that has to be addressed, its not on the agenda yet, but it probably will be."
Guerrero, who represents the Oceano Community Services District on the South County Sanitation District Board, says rate hikes and cuts in the District's operational budget are expected to be discussed at the next Board meeting on December 5 in Oceano.
"The rates were not previously raised because there were adequate reserves at the time", Guerrero says, "now that we are facing putting in major capital improvements, paying a fine, and losing money at astounding rates, they are going to have to be addressed."
South County Sanitation District Administrator John Wallace was unavailable for comment.
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