Golconda and McDermitt face water rate hikes

Humboldt County Commission moved to approve rate increases for the Golconda Water District and the McDermitt General Improvement District effective July 1. 

The rate increases affect water consumption for both districts as well as sewer rates for McDermitt. Residents from both districts were present during the meeting and voiced their opposition.

“I've lived in Golconda for 30 years,” Andy Latham said. “I understand we probably need to bump up our water rates .... but a hundred dollars, three times your water bill in three years is just ridiculous.”

The Commission told the public it had no choice but to raise rates. Commissioner Mike Bell said, “It's not something we want to do but something we have to do.”

Diving into the numbers Mike Boney with the Nevada Rural Water Authority (NvRWA), who conducted the rate study, laid out the stark reality. “The proposed budget for the year is $82,578,” he said. However, Boney pointed out that annual projected income for the budget year (2019) was $94,476.31, a loss of .01%. 

“That's based upon the current incoming rates, no revenue was discussed or proposed or anything else, this is based on current rates coming in.”

The current base rate is $34; however, Boney said with the current budget the District’s base rate should be $80.45 to cover all expenditures. To accommodate the sticker shock, NvRWA proposed the increase be phased in over three years. However, Boney pointed out that the District would still be behind because “everything goes up power, parts, labor.”

 Humboldt County Manager Dave Mendiola addressed concerns about the cost of labor, expenses and how the County bills for those charges. “What happens when we go to Golconda [is] we charge Golconda Water District for that time. We charge Golconda Water for equipment, materials such as pipes and meters. It gets charged back to the system [that uses it]. .... We have to charge it back because if we don't, essentially, what's happening is the people of Winnemucca, the people in Orovada are paying for it.”’

Mendiola said that when the water boards of both districts dissolved, the county was legally required to take on the responsibility of governance. The County took over management of the districts in 2017. Once the responsibility shifted to the County, the County’s personnel and equipment became involved. 

“We had to use our people, our time, our vehicle to do the work necessary,” Mendiola said. Historically, in McDermitt and Golconda, maintenance and repairs are done by local people who are willing to do the work, so there are no direct expenses. When the districts dissolved, the use of local labor stopped and so that's why these costs have escalated while the rates have remained unchanged, according to Mendiola. “We're forced with a situation that even if we weren’t going to do any upgrades or fix anything, we can't cover the costs right now.”

McDermitt General Improvement District is facing the same rate increase situation. The current water rates charged by the District do not cover the District’s water system maintenance, improvements, and needs.

The current base rate in McDermitt is $49 for 15,000 gallons and is expected to raise to $64 for zero usage by 2022. 

In February 2017, arsenic levels in the town’s water supply spiked above safe concentrations. Since then, the County has provided bottled water to McDermitt. The installation for a filtration system is planned to address the arsenic issue. Mendiola said the “goal is that we're going to start this [filtration] project sometime in August and get it underway with the idea of being on by the end of the year.”