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Sewer rate rises proposed

Some residents could see their sewer rates increase by 33 percent or more over the next five years under a proposal by the Clark County Water Reclamation District.

The district wants to raise rates for most of its residential customers in the Las Vegas Valley, increasing their annual sewer bills by about $12 each year through 2013.

The district also wants to gradually increase the one-time charges paid by new customers who hook up to the sewer system.

The County Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed rate increase at 10 a.m. Tuesday in commission chambers of the Clark County Government Center.

The commission, which serves as the reclamation district’s board of trustees, is expected to vote on the new rates at the same meeting.

If approved, the higher rates and connection charges would take effect starting July 1.

The district serves more than 200,000 customers in unincorporated Clark County.

Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite have their own sewer service providers.

Since the district’s last rate increase in 1995, the number of customers has more than doubled and so has its workload. The district now treats more than 100 million gallons of wastewater each day, up from 64 million gallons in 1995.

The additional revenue would be used to fund a $505 million inspection and rehabilitation program for the more than 2,000 miles of pipelines in the valley’s sewer system. More than 60 percent of those pipelines are at least 15 years old.

Over the last three years, the district has rehabilitated more than 47 miles of large-diameter pipes at an average cost of $1 million a mile.

Such maintenance work is designed to avoid problems like the pipe collapse near the Strip in 2003 that cost several million dollars and took months to fix, snarling traffic.

The proposed rate hike could be particularly painful for customers in the outlying communities of Blue Diamond, Indian Springs and Searchlight.

Those customers will see a rate hike of $90 or more in the first year as the district switches to a universal rate schedule.

District spokesman Marty Flynn said that right now the district charges each area a different rate based on the maintenance and operation costs of their respective wastewater treatment facilities. Customers in Blue Diamond, Indian Springs and Searchlight pay less because their treatment systems are smaller and less complex.

But while those customers will take a hit initially, Flynn said, the impact would have been far worse had the district forced them to absorb the full cost of needed sewer system upgrades in those towns.

By contrast, Laughlin has been paying for its own facility upgrades for the past 25 years and it shows in the high sewer rates there, Flynn said. Under the universal rate schedule, Laughlin customers will see their annual sewer bill cut by almost $140 in the coming year.

Though this would be the first rate hike since 1995 to support maintenance and operations for the district, valley customers were hit with a $7 surcharge and a connection fee increase last year. That money goes to the regional Clean Water Coalition to help pay for a new wastewater diffusion system that will release treated effluent at the bottom of Lake Mead.

The proposed rate hike was developed with input from a 35-member citizens advisory committee convened by the district last July. The committee delivered its recommendations to the district in March.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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