BRENTWOOD -- Starting in January, residents here will be tapped with larger bills for water and garbage service for the next five years.
After acknowledging that Brentwood's water quality isn't great but is improving, the City Council agreed last week to hike up fees for water, wastewater and solid waste collection services. Brentwood water and wastewater rates will both climb 3 percent each year through mid-2018, while garbage pickup fees will go up 2.8 percent annually.
According to city staff, that means an "average" residential bill of 12,000 gallons of water use per month, along with 5,000 gallons of wastewater and a 32 gallon trash bin, will increase by about $3.50 per month or $42 a year.
Brentwood is the lone Contra Costa city that provides all three services, with the increase meant to cover its break-even enterprises.
The extra fees will cover ballooning utility costs and supplies, along with needed upgrades, maintenance and retrofitting to the city's systems to meet environmental regulations, city officials said. Those department accounts also cover debt service for new facilities and employee salaries and benefits.
The council's unanimous decision Nov. 12 came after a public hearing where residents strongly criticized increasing the cost of a product they say is not worth the quality they are receiving, complaining about its poor taste, hardness and that it leaves stains on dishes and tile.
Several speakers at the meeting say they use water softeners or drink bottled water.
Council members acknowledge the water is not great, but said Brentwood's water quality has improved, particularly because of a new water treatment plant that opened in 2008.
Water hardness has decreased about 8 to 10 percent per year since the plant came online, from 230 parts per million to about 140 of calcium and magnesium, said Bailey Grewal, Brentwood's public works director. The goal is for it to decrease below 100, he said.
The growing East Contra Costa city provides water to more than 17,000 accounts, according to an independent rate study conducted in advance of the increase. About three-quarters of the city's raw water comes from the Delta, and the remainder is pumped from the city's groundwater wells.
Brentwood's water rates had been increasing 3 percent a year, and its wastewater rate 7.5 percent since 2008. State law, however, requires the council to conduct a study before adopting any rate increases.
Some residents also implored the council not to approve the rate hike, as it would create an additional financial hardship.
Shirley Payne was among those who said she hasn't received a pay raise in years. On the contrary, her wages have been cut.
"As far as raising the rates, even though its $3.80, I think that this isn't a good time. It's a very weak economy, a lot of people are without jobs, people are not sure about (things such as) what medical costs are going to incur," she said.
Vice Mayor Joel Bryant noted that revenue has to be kept up to maintain the same level of service, preferring to have it be done in "small incremental steps," rather than "extreme spikes" if something were in need of repair or replacement.
Brentwood received 510 valid protests of a possible 19,784, far below the majority needed to stop consideration of a rate hike. Some at the meeting questioned the public notice, saying the flier they received looked like junk mail.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Here is a look at Brentwood's water rates over the next five years, following last week's rate hike.
2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Monthly Base Rate
5/8 or 3/4 meter 19.08 19.65 20.24 20.85 21.47 22.12
Residential Usage Rate
Tier 1: 1-10 units 2.99 3.08 3.17 3.27 3.37 3.47
Tier 2: 11-20 units 3.56 3.67 3.78 3.89 4.01 4.13
Tier 3: 21-30 units 4.26 4.39 4.52 4.66 4.79 4.94
Tier 4: 31+ 4.97 5.12 5.27 5.43 5.59 5.76
Unit = 1,000 gallons
Source: City of Brentwood