Any opposition fell by the wayside, however, as the board voted 4 to 0 — with board member Bill Smallman absent — to move forward with the plan that calls for a three-year rate increase; 18 percent beginning on Sept. 1, 5 percent on Sept. 1, 2014 and 5 percent on Sept. 1, 2015.
Smallman was present for the entire discussion but inexplicably left after public comment was over, just before the vote.
Board members argued that the increase was necessary to bring a crumbling infrastructure to code, as well as address massive debts brought on by state pension requirements.
Board member Rick Harrington said that, among the items that needed attention sooner, rather than later, are two water tanks and the Lewis Treatment Plant. Both tanks are leaking, he said, and are in dire need of replacement.
“That is a substantial amount of money, and we don’t have any of that,” Harrington said. “If we don’t get the rate increase, you accelerate the failure.”
Board member Sherwin Gott said that, although the district’s financial straits are dire, he disliked the idea of the rate increase — because the amount called for wouldn’t be sufficient for the district’s needs and he opposed the idea of having to pass another increase down the road.
“We are a small district,” Gott said. “There’s less that 500 of us to pay all the bills — this is not going to be enough.”