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City Council leans toward electricity rate hikes in Glendale

August 07, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

The City Council took the first step toward increasing electricity rates Tuesday night, even after public speakers pleaded to not boost their bills and one woman was on the verge of being tossed out of council chambers.

The majority of the council said they were open to five years of increases through 2018, beginning with an average 8% increase, followed by 7%, 5%, 2% and 2%. The compounded increase would be 29.1% for residential customers, 25.9% for commercial customers and 22.9% for small commercial customers, according to a city report.

Under the plan, an average single-family homeowner who pays $103.15 monthly now, would see rates increase by $9.16 to $122.31 next fiscal year and then an additional $21.38 through 2018 to $133.69.

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The plan must still be approved by a roll-call vote next Tuesday before it takes effect. While Councilman Ara Najarian introduced the ordinance Tuesday, he said he may want to tweak it next week and Councilmen Frank Quintero and Zareh Sinanyan are adamantly against it.

Mayor Dave Weaver and Councilwoman Laura Friedman supported the rate plan.

“I will support the staff recommendation as much as I know it hurts people,” Weaver said. “We can’t sit still and do nothing and hope the future is going to take care of it.”

The proposed rates include “adjustment charges,” which could boost electricity charges if new state environmental rules drive the utility’s costs up or sales volumes fall below projections.

In addition to ratcheting up rates, officials plan to issue $60 million in bonds, which city officials would use to complete capital improvements, such as work on the Grayson Power Plant. Officials plan to spend $94 million on capital improvements over the next five years.

While the council increased water rates last year, it hasn’t approved raising electricity rates since 2007. But that didn’t stop residents and business owners from complaining. About 140 people packed council chambers and the entryway to City Hall during the meeting.

Council members were interrupted several times during their comments by angry resident Laina Baltrenas, who opposes the rate increases. Weaver called to have her removed from the council chambers, although she quieted down and never was booted.

Roughly 30 people, including resident Mike Minasyan, spoke against the rate increases, claiming it would be difficult for them to pay for the soaring costs.

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