Rates, debt main concerns at DSRSD open house

Agency owes $50 million

Although some people have been complaining about hikes in their water and sewer services, it seemed most of those who turned out at the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) open house Thursday night were looking for information, not someone to blame.

DSRSD is the agency that supplies water and sewer services to Dublin and parts of San Ramon and Pleasanton. Nineteen people, a mix from all three communities, attended, asking questions about the agency's debt and their bills. Officials at the agency were a little worried about the turnout, since only two people gave advanced notice they planned to attend.

Water and sewer rates are going up in January, and the DSRSD will continue its temporary surcharge until its $50 million debt is restructured. The debt -- and the surcharge -- came about because the agency had to build the entire infrastructure needed for communities, like Dougherty Valley and eastern Dublin before the first home went in. When construction stopped because of the downturn in the economy, developer fees -- the money paid to have homes linked to the system -- stopped as well, leaving the DSRSD in debt.

Among those looking for information were Dubliners Margo and John Johnson, who spend much of their time away from home, largely doing mission work for their church.

"When I looked at our last bill, our surcharge was higher than our fixed rate and our water usage," Margo Johnson said.

The two spend much of their time in Africa, something John said gives them a unique perspective.

"When it comes to water, we have more empathy than most," John said. "Water is the biggest problem in the world."

Linda Costello, also of Dublin, was worried about the $50 million owed by the DSRSD.

"That much debt was kind of surprising," Costello said, adding she's "concerned about how much we'll be paying for our water."

After speaking to officials, she said, she came to a better understanding of the situation. Her son, Mitchell, said he has a better perspective, too, and offered a simple solution.

"We'd better get more rate payers, otherwise, we won't be able to pay off our debt," he said.

Much of the discussion focused on exactly how to address the debt issue. The DSRSD is considering a number of options, including variable rate and fixed rate bonds; and bank loans and inter-fund loans, in which the agency in effect, lends itself money out of reserves it has on tap for repairs and other expenses.

Public comment is part of the process, but DSRSD officials will also be talking to financial experts from the area, including people who manage money for local cities, to get their perspective on the best way to deal with the debt.

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Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Dublin
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:00 am

DSRSD...How does a utility find itself 50 million in the hole all of a sudden? Where are the financial records and who is in charge? This is criminal.....and there should an investigation of possible criminal fraud.....I hope the Alameda county District atty's office and the State atty general look into this.

How nice rates go up at the same time a 50 million dollar hole is found?

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

This $50MM hole is worrisome to me as a Pleasanton resident because Pleasanton contracts with the DSRSD. Who made these decisions to overbuild Dublin sewer capacity and rely solely upon developer fees that trickle in to fund it? I bet Pleasanton had little to no say in it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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