A divided Westminster City Council on Wednesday night approved a water rate increase that will go into effect on Thursday.
The council voted 3-2 in favor of the rate adjustment for fiscal years 2020-21 through 2024-25. In favor were Mayor Tri Ta and Councilmember Carlos Manzo and Vice Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen. Opposed were Councilmembers Kimberly Ho and Tai Do.
The fixed rate for most residential users with 5/8 or ¾-inch meters will go from the current $15.51 for an eight-week period to $16.24, a change of 73 cents. In the first year, the typical residential user can expect to see an increase of $1.73. Costs will rise in the following years: 6.5 percent for the first two years and 6 percent for the next three.
Other users will see different adjustments, with some categories getting a rate reduction, and others – mainly very large users of water – experiencing a doubling or more of their charges.
New City Manager Marwan Youssef told the council that the city reviews its water rates “every few years” to determine if they meet the financial and other requirements of providing water to the residents and businesses of Westminster.
“We have to make sure our charges are in line so we don’t fall behind,” he said.
The new rates, he said, will nevertheless place the city’s rates fourth from the bottom of the 17 Orange County cities that have their own water departments.
Westminster has 10 wells and pumps about 65 percent of its need from underground wells, with the balance imported from the Metropolitan Water District.
Money collected from the payment of water bills goes not only to cover the cost of supplying the water but also the maintenance of reserves in case of an emergency such as an earthquake, which could severely damage the system.