The Pine Cove Water District directors will hold a public hearing on April 1 to garner comments from residents and customers about proposed rate increases before making a decision.

In January, General Manager Jerry Holldber discussed the need for more revenues and made some tentative recommendations that were submitted to the board at the Feb. 11 meeting.

In a letter to customers, PCWD President Michael Esnard wrote, “These proposals were based on recommendations from our auditors and were brought by General Manager Jerry Holldber to the board in January. They are aimed at assuring the financial health of the district in the face of rising costs, especially electricity.”

The minimum bi-monthly charge of $53 would increase $9 over three years. The initial increase would be to $57, then $60 in February 2016 and $62 in February 2017. Water rates will generally increase 20 percent at each tier. For example, the cost of zero to 6,000 gallons is currently $1.50 per 1,000 gallons or $9 bi-monthly. If the new rates are approved, this would increase to $1.80 per 1,000 gallons or $10.80 bi-monthly.

Also, Esnard noted that the proposal eliminates some of the top tiers for applying the usage charges, thus simplifying the district’s tiered levels.

“We’re still not fully covering operational expenses,” Holldber said. “This helps but we still a little behind. We’re able to balance out because of the antenna rentals.”

The proposal, if approved, has a recommended effective date of April 1.

Pine Cove resident Marge Muir objected to a decision immediately after the hearing and recommended that if the board approves new rates, the effective date be deferred until June 1.

“To have people come to speak and then vote to pass and put it in effect the same day seems too fast,” she stated.

In response, Esnard stressed that the information about the rate increases would be mailed within days and customers would have seven weeks to review and to think about the proposal.

“If we’re flooded with phone calls, that’s one thing and if there’s no response, that’s another,” Esnard said. “We can change the implementation date if there’s significant questions. If people are concerned, we can delay the day.”

The public hearing is at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 1, at the PCWD meeting room.

In other business, Shari Cassen of Pine Cove addressed the board about the need to increase capability to capture rainfall. Based on a Los Angeles Times article about less snowfall and more rain in the future, Cassen suggested more diversions, dams and percolating ponds above the district’s wells.

In water business, Holldber reported that January’s production was nearly 2.7 million gallons, almost 550,000 more than the January 2014 production.

“It was weather-related and the worst cold freeze in a few years,” he said. He also added that the water loss last month was 14 percent. “That’s terrible,” he admitted. “I don’t know exactly what is causing it. We found another leak and several meters which were not registering.”

He also reported that the level of the district’s static groundwater well no. 10 had fallen 5 feet, the first drop since October.

He also is developing a request for federal grant money to help rehabilitate some of the wells.