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Hollister,CA mulls water-rate increase as much as 60 percent

The city of Hollister may raise the water rates for the first time in a decade.

The rates could go up by as much as 60 percent, forcing the average family to pay more than $60 a month for water.

Some residents are upset, but the city says it's impossible for it to keep the water flowing at the current prices.

Residents on the county system have already seen their rates go up, but the average family of four in the city pays about $40 a month right now. That bill is about to go up. The question is, how much?

Hollister residents Joseph and Minnie Liera have a beautiful garden at their home, but they say they may have to let all of the colorful flowers shrivel up and die if the city raises the water rates.

"I'm not very happy about it, considering that most of us have a limited income in addition to all these other things going up," said Joseph Liera.

Businesses like Laundromats will spend a huge chunk of change just to keep the water running, and they may have to pass that extra cost onto customers. The average business would see a 26 percent increase, which could cause major problems for places like car washes down the street.

But some business owners think the rates have to change because the city didn't plan for so much growth.

"It's a cost of not planning ahead. I think everyone needs to bite the bullet," said business owner Armando Tellez.

Hollister hasn't raised the rates in 10 years. City officials say customers are paying less for water than it costs the city to operate the system.

"Operational costs operate on a loss," said Hollister City Manager Clint Quilter.

For the Lieras, water is a necessity more than a luxury for the garden, and they think the city should raise the rates gradually.

Until just a few weeks ago, the city was using more than 90 percent of the interest from the water fund to pay for day-to-day city expenses -- something that is generally frowned upon. So, city leaders say the new rate increase would help cover the deficit from that and put them in a better place for the future.

The rate increase is not a done deal yet. The council will meet on Sept. 7, where the public will have a chance to voice its opinion.