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Los Angeles councilman backs more aggressive sewer fee hikes

Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon says a 77% increase in sewer fees over a decade would serve as a jobs initiative.

September 14, 2011|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Workers clean a Chinatown sewer line.
Workers clean a Chinatown sewer line. (Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times )

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon called Tuesday for the expansion of a proposal to hike sewer fees, saying the current plan to increase them nearly 40% over five years is too timid.

Alarcon, who represents the northeast San Fernando Valley, said a package of larger increases would serve the city as a jobs initiative, putting more people to work and allowing more pipes to be repaired.

"It's our opportunity to create a bit of a stimulus program," he said.

Alarcon made his remarks as the council's Energy and Environment Committee delayed a decision on sewer fee increases for a fourth time. While Alarcon pushed for a plan that is more aggressive, Councilwoman Jan Perry said she is trying to keep the increases at the "lowest level possible."

Budget officials have recommended a five-year package of rate hikes that would increase the monthly bill of the average single-family household — one with three people — from $29.88 to $41.71. The Bureau of Sanitation countered last week with a 10-year plan to increase the average single-family bill by 29% in five years and 77% over a decade, reaching $52.99 in 2020.

Unemployment in Los Angeles was 14.6% in July, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The five-year sewer proposal would create 9,500 construction jobs, and the 10-year plan would create 10,800, said Enrique Zaldivar, director of the Bureau of Sanitation.

The city has 6,700 miles of sewer pipes, nearly a third of them more than 80 years old. If the rates were increased, half the money would go toward sewer pipe repairs and half toward the upgrade of wastewater treatment plants.

Tuesday's was the committee's fourth discussion of sewer rate hikes since May. Perry, who heads the committee, had predicted Monday that the panel would cast a vote this week. A day later, she requested a report on the "hot spots" in the sewer system — places where pipes most need repairs.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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