Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Created: 11/18/2011 05:24:53 PM PST

ONTARIO – Despite protests from a handful of residents, the City Council has agreed to rate hikes for its water and sewer services over the next two years.

Rate increases for residents will result in an average monthly increase of $1.77, or 1.6 percent in the first year.

In 2013, rates will go up by another $1.42 on an average month, or about 1.3 percent.

The first rates increases will become effective Jan. 6 2012.

Speaking out against the increases, several residents have cited the poor economy and unemployment as reasons they could not financially support the changes.

“Raising the water bill means I can’t water my yard. I’ll have to let my yard dry out and let the weeds grow,” senior citizen Leonard Henry said.

But city officials defended the hike, adding the revenues are necessary to meet its operation costs through 2013.

Revenues for the city’s water, sewer and solid waste comes from user fees – they are not taxes, said Mohamed El-Amamy, utilities general manager for Ontario.

Those fees support the expenses for each department, El-Amamy said.

Prior to coming to the council for the rate hikes, El-Amamy said several cost-cutting measures were implemented to keep the rate increases as low as possible.

Officials were also able to reduce expenses in their solid waste department to cover their costs for the year.

Due to the reductions, the solid waste department will not have to increase rates, El-Amamy said.

Increases in sewer treatment costs as well as an aging infrastructure are some of the challenges the city faces in the coming years, El-Amamy said.

It will cost the city $600,000 to operate its sewer services. Staff was able to reduce costs by $200,000, which still left the department with a $400,000 deficit, but a 3 percent rate increase will make up that difference, he said.

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