DSRSD sets open house in Dublin today to gain comments on debt

Rate hike and repayment of temporary increase also to be discussed

People who get their water or sewer services from the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) will get their chance today to comment on how the agency should pay off its $50 million debt and how they want that money eventually repaid.

The open house and discussion will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today in the DSRSD board room, 7051 Dublin Blvd., Dublin.DSRSD is holding an open house at its board room in Dublin today. Sue Stephenson, DRSD community affairs supervisor, said there will be general information posted on the lobby walls explaining the situation.

The problem, according to Stephenson, is that the agency had to build the entire infrastructure needed for communities, such as Dougherty Valley and eastern Dublin before the first home went in. When construction stopped, she said, developer fees, the money paid to have homes linked to the system, stopped as well.

DSRSD is holding an open house at its board room in Dublin today. Stephenson said there will be general information posted on the lobby walls explaining the situation.

Inside, she said, will be four stations. The first will allow people to ask questions about how the debt came about and what the 20-year outlook is for DSRSD.

The second station will let people give feedback about the different options on financing. That will be a place to discuss options for the debt restructuring, including fixed rate, variable rate and combination bonds, along with bank loans and interfund loans, in which the agency in effect, lends itself money out of reserves it has on tap for repairs and other expenses.

The third will be an opportunity for people to speak out about the temporary infrastructure charge, which Stephenson describes as "a nasty little thing that everybody hates. This is the thing created a year ago to handle the debt."

That's the rate hike of up to $12 per month to pay for the debt, expected to be phased in beginning in January.

"It's not a good time to be raising rates, but we also have to pay our debt," Stephenson said, explaining that "they called in the bond."

The third station, however, "is to talk about repaying this to the rate payers," Stephenson said. She noted that there are a number of options, everything from a lump sum payment to discounts on future water bills to postponing a rate hike down the road.

The fourth station will be a chance to discuss whether the district should establish a policy for debt reserves, and if so, how much it should have.

"The bottom line is, we want people to understand what we're doing. We want to be as transparent as possible," Stephenson said. "We are a government agency."

Of course, she added, it wouldn't hurt if someone who knows finance turned out and came up with an innovative solution DSRSD officials hadn't considered.

The fee increase proposed by the DSRSD provoked an outcry from residents whose rates could go up by as much as 66 percent. However, according to Stephenson, only one person has, so far, registered for the open house.

Although the public comment will be considered, it's only one part of the process. Stephenson said DSRSD officials will also get input from local muncipalities, and after considering the options, make the final decision based on the information they've received.

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