Downsized Metropolitan Water District board of directors sworn in

To the benefit of water ratepayers throughout Southern California, steps to keep rates for imported water the same for the fifth consecutive year were taken today by a newly downsized Metropolitan Water District board of directors.

LOS ANGELES—(BU.S.INESS WIRE)—Jan. 9, 2001—To the benefit of water ratepayers throughout Southern California, steps to keep rates for imported water the same for the fifth consecutive year were taken today by a newly downsized Metropolitan Water District board of directors.

With the crack of the gavel, Metropolitan Chairman Phillip J. Pace ushered in a new era for MWD's board by presiding over a smaller body than he did a month ago. Effective Jan. 1, MWD's board was reduced from 51 directors to 37.

During ceremonies punctuated by a color guard, state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) administered the oath of office to the new MWD board, while state Assemblyman Thomas Calderon (D-Montebello), chairman of the Assembly's Southern California Water Caucus, swore Pace in to his second two-year term as board chairman.

Later in the same meeting, the MWD board moved to maintain the district's wholesale rates and charges for imported water deliveries for the 2001-02 fiscal year, in contrast to the skyrocketing costs of some of the other state's utilities.

"The size of our board may have shrunk a bit, but it feels great to be an oasis of stability in this very uncertain time for the state's consumers," said Pace. "If the proposed rates and charges are approved by the board in coming months, it would mark the fifth consecutive year we will have been able to hold down costs for our member public agencies and consumers through prudent financial planning and more efficient management."

In addition to the board's size, effective Jan. 17, Metropolitan's customer count also will decrease as the Dana Point-based Coastal Municipal Water District merges with the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC).

"Two years ago, our board worked with the state Legislature to reduce our board's size in order to streamline our deliberative processes, while retaining democratic representation," Pace said. "Each of our soon-to-be 26 member agencies is represented by at least one director."

Under the rate plan proposed by the board, drinking water treated at Metropolitan's five regional filtration plants will remain at $431 per acre-foot, while untreated water will continue at $349 per acre-foot. (An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount used by two typical Southland families in and around their homes in a year.)

In addition, Metropolitan proposes no increase in the district's readiness-to-serve charge for the fourth consecutive year. The district collects the charge from its member agencies to help repay debt on bonds sold to finance water quality improvements and other capital projects.

In its action, the board scheduled a Feb. 12 public hearing on the proposed rates and charges by its budget and finance committee at the district's headquarters, at 700 N. Alameda St., near Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. The MWD board will consider the proposed rates, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2002, at its March meeting.

This is the last year that a one-size-fits-all type of pricing structure is proposed to be used by Metropolitan, Pace said. It is expected to be replaced by a new rate structure that is based on contractual agreements with member agencies and includes tiered rates.

"After nearly three years in development, Metropolitan will introduce a new rate structure as part of the agency's strategic plan that will provide member agencies with greater choice and flexibility to manage their resources and control their costs for water supplies. It also will maintain Metropolitan's commitment to stable rates," he said. "We expect to adopt the new rate structure in March 2002 after a series of public workshops."

Pace said that stable rates help ensure that water ratepayers are not harmed by uncertain cost increases — like those related to spiraling power and natural energy costs — while not paying more than the cost of providing service.

Metropolitan member agencies that have reduced their contingents on the board include the city of Los Angeles, Calleguas Municipal Water District, Central Basin Municipal Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, MWDOC, San Diego County Water Authority, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, West Basin Municipal Water District and Western Municipal Water District of Riverside County.

Now, agencies with two or more directors on Metropolitan's board include Los Angeles, Central Basin, MWDOC, the Water Authority and West Basin.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 27 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The District imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other water-management programs.

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