Resident seeks justification for steep water rate increase

By Catherine Stachowiak

When local Sharon Riggan received an announcement letter, June 12 that was actually dated June 4, from Erskine Creek Water Company, about the proposed upcoming rate increase, she was surprised. The biggest reason for her surprise was the fact it gave the public very little time to respond to the public hearing or find out information.

Riggan’s frustration was with the fact she just needed information to understand Erskine’s validation for their requested increase, so she could file an appropriate and timely response to the Erskine officials and the California Public Utilities Commission.  However she could not obtain the information she needed.

She said until we can review the file, per the letter, I cannot speak as to Erskine’s justification for the increase.”  

Riggan told the Kern Valley Sun last Sunday that Debbie Loseth, who is a manager for the water company, scheduled an appointment with Riggan for Monday June 17.  Initially Loseth was attempting to contact the CPUC for advise on how to proceed, because Loseth’s office was too small to accommodate groups of people.  Loseth told Riggan Sunday that she could now field questions by phone. “We just got off the phone with Debbie and she was very helpful and informative. We have a tentative appointment scheduled tomorrow to go into her office, a small group of us, to review the document. And she’s going to have somebody available by phone to answer our questions.  So there’s cooperation and we’re all good with that. 

Loseth stressed that it is very important for the customers, the people concerned, to show up at the meeting, June 27at 6pm at Veterans Room 1, located at the Kern River Valley Veterans Center to voice their concerns and be heard and to file any kind of protest letter if they protest the rates, if they have something to say, and the grounds upon which they do.  Protests and requests for evidentiary hearing must be submitted to the required entities within 20 days of the date in the notice, which was June 4, leaving a deadline of June 24, 3 days before the meeting.

Riggan planned to keep the public informed and post a form letter for the public on her Facebook page she named Erskine Creek Water Company District Rate Protest  

Riggan said, “We love our water company. We haven’t had any problems with them. It just hit us quick.  And we were really confused.”

The two largest increases, according to Riggan, would impact the schools, causing tax payers to be double taxed, because it would be passed on to tax payers.  Small businesses in the district would be hit hard.  The proposed rate increase is for 37.1%.   

Riggan said, “Besides clearly inadequate notice and opportunity to prepare protest letters, my objections to Erskine’s request are:  While clearly everyone’s costs have gone up, the average California water rates are going up by 9%, Erskine is requesting a whopping 37.1%.  And in a community with 36.4% of residents living below the poverty line, and stats showing that Lake Isabella residents earning 1/3 of the average Californian’s income.  With so many seniors and children facing economic hardship and even homelessness, we believe this increase is excessive, 28% above the state average increase for water companies, and could force some families to choose between running water, food and medicine, or even out of their homes.”