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Morro Bay city manager confirms protest of sewer rate increase fell short

Posted at 7:45 PM, Feb 03, 2019

The sewer rate increases approved for Morro Bay will go into effect in July, despite opposition from a group that earlier claimed it got enough protest signatures to stop the rate hike.

Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins clarified in a recent report that the protest was unsuccessful and the measure will go into effect with customers seeing the additional charge on their August bill.

“Some people were concerned we didn’t acknowledge the new protest votes,” Collins said. “So this report addresses that.”

The $126 million water reclamation facility will cost residents about $41 dollars more per month on their water bill.

A group opposing the sewer rate increase said the cost would push out low income residents and turn Morro Bay into a community for the wealthy. Some business owners told KSBY earlier that they would struggle with an increased water bill.

Collins said the increase is notable, but added that a number of cost-savings measures are being taken to help soften the blow on what he called a necessary project.

“Every dollar counts and as you know, the Central Coast is not a cheap place to live, so we’re very cognizant of that,” Collins said. “We also realize our current facility is completely out of date and on the beach and susceptible to sea level rise and coastal flooding. if something like that were to happen, we’d have catastrophic impacts to the community.”

Collins said opponents of the rate hike did not get the nearly 2,800 signatures needed to stop the measure.

In total, opponents submitted over 3,000 signatures, but Collins said over 600 signatures were duplicates and about 1,000 signatures were collected outside the protest period.

“Those signatures were collected before we even released details about how much the rates would increase,” Collins said.

Only 1,560 protest signatures were valid.

Collins said opponents could still file a lawsuit to stop the measure but that has yet to happen.

According to the report Collins published, designs for the facility are nearly complete, along with permitting for the overall program.

The City is also working with the state in its pursuit of a low-interest State Revolving Fund loan to keep the costs low.

Collins said residents can apply for financial assistance with their bill and receive up to 10 percent off.

Citizens for Affordable Living, the group opposing the sewer rate, could not be reached for this story.