Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/20/2012 07:25:34 PM PDT

RIALTO – City employees on Wednesday continued to count protest ballots opposed to steep increases in water and wastewater rates.

It was not clear Wednesday that there were enough votes to reverse the City Council’s majority vote to enact rates that would hike combined water and wastewater sewage rates by 114.8 percent by 2016.

The threshold necessary to block the rate increases is 5,701 for water rates and 10,387 for wastewater rates.

As of shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, there were 2,677 votes counted against the water rate hike and 4,311 against increases for wastewater services.

The Utility Workers Union of America rounded up 7,705 protest votes for the wastewater hike and 4,358 protests against the water rate hike.

Both represent about 70 percent of what’s needed to block the rate hikes.

It’s not known how many residents mailed or hand-delivered protest votes on their own.

The votes are mandated by Proposition 218, which requires cities to allow ratepayers to file protest votes against proposed rate hikes.

Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee said that she hoped to finish the count late Wednesday night. A large coffee pot and a diverse assortment of cookies were arranged in front of the dais where vote counters worked at a rapid pace to complete their large task.

Five employees worked from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. counting votes on Tuesday. Wednesday’s counting started at 11 a.m. with seven assigned to the task, which involves checking each ballot with a computer database of Rialto ratepayers.

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