Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The San Antonio City Council delayed taking a vote on a proposed San Antonio Water System (SAWS) rate increase Thursday, rescheduling it for Dec. 7.
A SAWS spokesperson told the Rivard Report on Thursday morning that the vote was delayed so that District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales could be in attendance. Gonzales gave birth to a baby girl early Thursday morning.
However, a spokesman for the mayor told the Rivard Report on Thursday that Mayor Ron Nirenberg “delayed [the vote] to give some Council members time to ask some more questions of SAWS and make sure the issues are clarified.”
The SAWS board of trustees unanimously approved the rate increase on Tuesday. At that time, Nirenberg supported the increase as a way to improve the city’s water delivery infrastructure. The average residential water and sewer bill would increase 5.8 percent in 2018 and 4.7 percent in 2019.
“We don’t want to continue to kick this can down the road and ask you for a 20 percent rate increase just because we failed to replace the pipes at a reasonable rate,” Nirenberg said Tuesday. “We at some point have to face the reality that we have to maintain the system we’ve got.”
Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) stated Wednesday that he would vote against the rate increase. In an email statement, he stated that he believed SAWS should find reasonable alternatives to hiking water rates, including a full re-evaluation of its rate structure. He said such a review could be carried out by a third party and include SAWS finances and operations.
“Raising utility rates should never be a foregone conclusion,” Brockhouse stated. “City Council must dig deeper to ensure every dollar a customer pays is put to the highest and best use. For far too long, rate increases are rubber stamped, with little to no financial scrutiny.”