After a marathon public hearing that began Monday evening and ended after midnight, the will of the people prevailed for thousands in Paradise protesting a planned water rate and surcharge increase.
It was a grass roots effort conducted in a short amount of time. The task for protesters was to hand out thousands of protest forms that had to be turned in signed by Monday night's public hearing at the Paradise Performing Arts and they only had about a week to do it.
By about 12:15 a.m., the PID announced that more than 5,900 signed protest forms had been submitted, well over the the 5,269 vote majority-vote threshold. With that count, the PID Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept the forms and deem them verified, thus killing the latest rate restructuring plan on the table.
"When they didn't want to give us extra time to get the signatures, that just motivated us more, and we just hit the pavement," said PID customer Marsha McGill. "We did it and now they know they need to listen to us."
Monday's vote means the PID must go back to the drawing board. This time, board members agreed that the public will be involved from the very start to find a rate increase plan acceptable to everyone. They even scheduled a water rate work shop last night for Feb. 17 to be held at the Performing Arts Center.
PID officials say some kind of rate increase will be necessary to keep water delivery operations going for the 25,700 people it serves.
General Manager George Barber said new federal and state regulations continue to squeeze the district's budget and there are major capital needs to improve and replace infrastructure.
But one of the big rubs for customers is the fact that some of the rate hike is needed to replace the portion of revenues that customers are no longer paying because they are doing such a good job conserving water. Last year, customers cut their water use by about 36 percent and that equates to about $750,000 in lost revenue for the district.
This year, the state is asking the district to cut water use by 33 percent.
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