Presidio City Council passes new water rates ordinance 

PRESIDIO — At Monday night’s regular meeting, Presidio City Council finally passed new water rates for customers who use more than 2,000 gallons of water a month. The ordinance has been in the works for several months, and city officials have met multiple times to discuss how to raise the price fairly to reflect the pace of inflation without gouging older, fixed-income residents. 

“We’re kind of playing catch up,” Malynda Richardson, the city’s chief financial officer, explained to the Presidio International back in January. Typically, cities will raise their water rates every year so that consumers aren’t suddenly hit with bigger bills, but Presidio’s water rates haven’t been raised in five years. 

Former Mayor Alcee Tavarez was on city council in 2017, the last time Presidio’s water rates were raised. The city currently uses a model that uses a fixed rate below 2,000 gallons per month, and hikes rates as use increases with each additional 1,000 gallons of water. “It was done so as not to affect the senior citizens,” he explained. “They’re the bulk of our community.” 

With the new rates, the city hopes to keep the spirit of the 2017 ordinance alive. “We didn’t touch the minimum,” Richardson explained. “So if you can conserve your water, you’re not going to get hit with a rate increase.” 

The ordinance sets the water rate at $12.22 with a $3.50 increase per thousand gallons for residential customers with a three-quarters inch meter, and $14.89 with the same $3.50 increase per thousand gallons for customers with a one inch meter. Customers living outside of city limits face a 50 percent surcharge for hookups and services, but if they successfully petition for their property to be incorporated into the city, they will pay the same prices as other Presidio residents. The city will also require a $150 deposit for all new residential customers. 

At Monday’s meeting, council also received an update from Ramon Carrasco of Kleinman Consultants and Cesar Leyva of Presidio Water & Sewer Department on how the city is using federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address problems with the city’s aging sewer system. The city’s work order system was the subject of scorn back in November, when members of the public turned out to a city council meeting to get answers on water leaks that had been documented and unaddressed for years. 

Leyva said his department has been hard at work installing new meters to address the problem, and has also been helping homeowners put in or repair backflow valves that keep the city’s water supply safe. The ARPA funds have been instrumental in helping combat the supply chain issues that have hit construction projects of all kinds across the world since the pandemic.

“The city has been working with a lot of grants, but we as a community still need to understand that there is inflation, and that we have not had any raise at all in the past five years,” explained Councilmember Arian Velázquez-Ornelas. “[The rate increase] only applies after 2,000 gallons, so we are protecting our elders and our smaller families. We are definitely thinking ahead.”