Fresno City Council Puts Off Measure W Decision, Asks For Study
Fresno voters may get to weigh in on a referendum that would overturn a planned hike in water rates, but the final decision didn't come Thursday.
Instead of moving forward with putting Measure W on the November ballot, or repealing the rate hikes - the city council voted to commission an expedited study on the issue.
Measure W seeks to overturn a water rate increase that city leaders say is necessary to fund a fund a $410 million infrastructure program. It would replace aging pipes in older parts of town and would build a new surface water treatment plant. That would allow the city to reduce its reliance on groundwater pumping, and instead use water from local rivers for municipal purposes.
The vote capped an often heated debate between council member Lee Brand and former county supervisor Doug Vagim, the leading voice behind the referendum.
If the water plan stands, average water rates for Fresno residents would double over three years. City officials say the increase is necessary after years of neglect and dropping groundwater levels. But critics like Vagim say that the project is too expensive and should be paid for through other means.
The study would examine the impact of Measure W and would completed in about two weeks when the council plans to make a final decision about the matter.