LIVINGSTON -- Residents may be stuck with higher water and sewer rates after the Merced County Superior Court threw out a lawsuit last week that challenged the rate increase.
Superior Court Judge Brian McCabe dismissed the case mainly because the plaintiffs waited too long to file the lawsuit.
The same judge in February declared the rate hike was unconstitutional, siding with Foster Farms in a separate lawsuit against the city. Livingston is appealing that decision.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit McCabe rejected last week filed a motion to prevent the rates from going into place Nov. 30, but they missed a 120-day window in which they could have challenged the ordinance.
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McCabe found that a statute of limitations had expired by 26 days when the case was filed.
The high rate increase upset a lot of people in Livingston, he said. But the increase was necessary since rates hadn't gone up since 1995, City Manager Richard Warne said.
"Rate increases are always unpopular, but the people who have examined the reasons why the increases needed to go into effect generally conclude that the city had no choice but to go forward with the increase," Warne said.
The lack of periodic, small increases in recent years by previous city councils forced the current council into a difficult situation, he added.
"The city simply cannot provide water service at a 1995 rate," Warne said.
David Friedman, whose firm Latham & Watkins co-represented the plaintiffs, said the dismissal was "disappointing." He declined to comment as to whether any future action would be taken.
The court is expected to soon enter a formal order of dismissal, but basically the case is over, said Jon Hobbs, Livingston city attorney.