State

Easing of rate increase proposed

Electricity customers in the Modesto Irrigation District might get a break on the rate increase scheduled for next month.

The district board agreed Tuesday to meet Friday on a proposal by Director Cecil Hensley to rescind at least part of the increase, one of three already approved for this year.

For residential users, the rate is set to go up 6.5 percent in June. They got a 7 percent increase in January, and a 5.4 hike is scheduled for September.

Hensley said the recession has put many customers out of work or forced them to take pay cuts.

"I think we owe it to the ratepayers to look at it," he said. "It may be necessary that it go into effect, (but) let's look at it."

District officials in November said the increases were needed to cover rising costs for wholesale power and to comply with state and federal mandates on renewable energy and other issues.

Tuesday, General Manager Allen Short said the need for the increases remains and any lost income would have to be made up with a 2010 hike.

Directors Tom Van Groningen and Paul Warda suggested that the rate review wait until the third increase in September, but they went along with the unanimous vote to schedule Friday's session.

Director John Kidd said the June increase might be trimmed because the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides cheap hydropower, was not as light as feared early in winter.

Before the rate increases started, a typical home paid an average of $119 a month for MID power. The figure will rise to $143 in September, unless the board makes changes.

Hensley said the board also should consider a break for business customers. Their rates are rising 10 percent to 17 percent this year, with three steps roughly similar to the residential phase-in.

The MID board will meet at 9 a.m. Friday at the district office, 1231 11th St., Modesto.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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