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Delay on water rate increase gets commissioners bubbling

Meetings with businesses on water costs could be seen as preferential, officials say.

February 07, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

While car dealers, the Americana at Brand and other large businesses are applauding the city’s decision to delay voting on proposed water rate increases, some Glendale Water & Power commissioners this week expressed concerns about the implications.

“I’m hoping we’re not reacting to just some small interests who have put in calls to officials and are rattling cages,” said Zanku Armenian, the commission’s newly-appointed chairman, during the meeting Monday.

City Manager Scott Ochoa delayed bringing the proposed rate changes to the City Council last week for a vote because several businesses said they needed more information. The City Council is now set to vote on the package March 20.

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Mike Bell, a utility consultant on the rate change, said officials and business owners have been meeting to discuss concerns, most of which center on big increases to fire meter charges.

But commissioners on Monday said those one-on-one meetings may be viewed as preferential treatment.

“I’m not comfortable with a few private owners meeting privately off the record with staff,” said Commissioner Deborah Dentler.

Facing a $13.5-million deficit on the water side of Glendale Water & Power, officials want a rate restructure to get the utility back in the black, build a healthy reserve and pay for capital improvements. A rate redesign and increase would boost revenue by 2% the first two years and then 4% and 5% in the next two years.

Each customer’s bill would be affected differently, since rates would differ depending on the type of user and how much water they consume. Some may see bills decrease slightly in the first year, while others will see rate increases.

Some of Glendale’s top 100 businesses may also see increased charges for the meters that provide water during fire emergencies to their buildings. Most large commercial customers would see an increase of between $130 and $300 per month in the first year and about $200 to $400 by the fourth in their meter charge. Others with larger meters could see $480 to $600 jumps per month over the next four years.

Since the cost of water is decreasing for commercial customers, the fire meter increases may be negligible, officials have said. But some bigger users beg to differ.

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