Saturday, July 1, 2017
[Monterey County] Civil Grand Jury: Marina Coast right to charge Fort Ord customers more than Marina city residents
Marina >> Marina Coast Water District is justified in charging its Fort Ord community customers more for water and wastewater services than its Marina city ratepayers because of the cost of repairing and replacing aging infrastructure on the former military base.
At the same time, Marina Coast should also add board members and representation based on population and customer base if Fort Ord is eventually annexed into the district. Fort Ord customers currently don’t get to vote for district board members, and Marina Coast has proposed adding a single board member to represent Fort Ord if annexation is completed.
Those are the main findings in a brief report issued by the 2016-17 Monterey County civil grand jury as part of a final report released this week.
According to the report, the grand jury initiated an investigation due to public complaints about the “discrepancy” between water rates charged to Marina city customers and those living in the Ord Community and the Marina Dunes development. Marina Coast, which serves about 20,300 city customers, has been providing water and wastewater service to the Fort Ord community, consisting of about 14,700 residents, since the federal government transferred ownership and operation of Fort Ord wells and water distribution system when the former base was closed in the 1990s.
The four-page report describes why Marina Coast is justified in charging higher rates to Fort Ord customers, including higher maintenance costs due to a larger service area and older plumbing dating back as far as the 1940s, higher debt service due to a substandard system that required upgrades, and higher distribution costs due to the relative size of the service areas.
While the report doesn’t specify the difference between Marina city and Fort Ord water and wastewater rates, it does point out that Fort Ord customers pay monthly surcharges for upgrades completed between 2005 and 2014, including $20 for water and $5 for wastewater.
According to the district’s web site, Marina customers are currently charged between $21.71 and $900.86 per month based on meter size, and a water consumption charge of between $2.70 and $5.47 per unit based on usage, while Fort Ord customers pay between $37.55 and $1,425.66 per month based on meter size, and a water consumption charge of between $3.40 and $7.03 based on usage.
Marina city customers pay $13.44 per unit in wastewater charges, while Fort Ord customers pay $29.80 per unit.
The report also indicated an investigation into potential excessive water leakage in the Fort Ord area due to aging infrastructure and the possibility that it had affected rates found no evidence of such a connection, pointing to a 2014-15 independent water audit that placed the water loss as 2.8 percent, “well within acceptable standards.”
While the report indicated both Marina Coast and Fort Ord Reuse Authority officials were interviewed by the grand jury, only the district is required to respond to the findings and recommendations.
Concerns have previously been expressed that Fort Ord customers are paying higher rates to defray costs for district-backed water and wastewater projects, including millions of dollars associated with the defunct Regional Desalination Project that remains the subject of litigation, but the grand jury did not address those allegations.
June 30, 2017
By Jim Johnson