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Rio Dell City Council moves to drop fire department wastewater charges

RIO DELL- The Rio Dell City Council moved to continue metering the Fire Department’s water usage but not charge them for that consumption at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

It was standing room only in the council chamber as dozens of citizens filled the room to support the fire department. At the meeting council members discussed the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year Budget. In that budget was the initiative to charge the fire department, as well as other city facilities, water and sewer use fees. Right now the fire station, the fire department’s public park and restrooms, as well as the library do not pay for their own water usage.

Council officials say that city departments must start paying for their own water usage to stay compliant with California’s Proposition 218. That proposition was passed in 1996 and states that rate-payers cannot be charged for more than the cost of supplying water to their own property. Because property-owner’s water fees are currently used to subsidize the city’s water usage, council members say the city would not be in compliance with the proposition and would be at risk of being sued.

But for facilities like the fire department and the library, those charges would be costly.

“It was originally reported over $7,000, actually $7,600 annually,” Rio Dell Fire Chief Shane Wilson said. “That has been reduced according to an error they made reading the meter down to $1,500 as we met tonight.”

That error frustrated several community members, many of which spoke to the council to protest the charges.

“We are a community and we, as a community we stick together,” Rio Dell Fire Commissioner Billy Dillard said. “When one entity is getting charged for something unfairly, I believe we'd all stick up for each other and that’s the way I feel- it was just kind of standing up for what's right.”

The council will hold a public meeting June 24th with legal council present to discuss whether that motion puts them in violation of Proposition 218.