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Angry customers confront water district at meeting

Joyce Lupiani

Angry customers confront water district at meeting

CREATED Jun. 5, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Clark County Commissioners got an earful Tuesday from people who got huge water bills in May thanks to fees meant to pay huge bills for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

At the emotional meeting, non-profit groups, small business owners and residents said they can't afford new fees for services they once got for free.

Homeowner Mary Jo Aldeman said, "I feel as though we're being raped."

Commissioners, sitting as the water district board, claim the public was informed about the new fees approved in February. But, it was clear from the impassioned outpouring that while most were aware of the $5 hike for residential customers, many were not aware of new fees for fire lines and fire meters until they got new, huge bills.

Brian Aldeman, with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce said, "You're seeing a bill go from zero to $660 if you have a 10 inch fire meter. That's a tremendous impact."

Small business owner Leslie Dunn said, "This new business that we're opening up? We've already had to cut one new position simply because of charge. This added 400 and something dollars to the bill."

Matt Frady of Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada told the commission, "We have projected that our costs for these first three years will be 300 percent of our current water bills."

Water Authority head Pat Mulroy said she understands the sticker shock, but the agency is stuck too.

According to Mulroy, "This isn't an extraordinary charge. Cities across the country charge for fire lines. They have to. It's too much of an infrastructure burden"

Fire lines and fire meters used to be covered by connection fees. Those fees disappeared when the economy tanked. But small business owners and non-profits say, their businesses will tank, and some residents fear they'll lose their homes, if they're forced to pay the water authority's $3.3 billion bill for infrastructure costs, including a third intake pipe at Lake Mead.

Another issue was confusion over one-inch, versus three-quarter inch meters and the tier system. Ironically, a smaller meter can be more expensive for a residential customer, depending on water usage.

Unfortunately, at least for the short term, the higher rates are here to stay.

A Committee of business leaders, owners and residents that was established to review the new fees three years from now, will begin meeting this month instead. Those meetings will be open to the public.

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