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Nearly two-thirds of those who responded to an online poll in the Argus-Courier last week say they believe the new structure for water and sewer rates is not equitable.

The city is proposing increases in both water and sewer rates over the next five years. Water rates would go up 10 percent next year and 36 percent over the next five years. Sewer rates would go up 13 percent next year and 65 percent over the next five years. Under the proposed tiered system, residents who use more water would pay a higher percentage in-crease and those who use less water would pay a smaller percentage increase in their rates. The in-creases in 2007 would still keep Petaluma below the average rate for nine other North Bay cities.

Asked if they would take steps to conserve water, three-fourths said yes.

Here are comments by those who responded to the online poll:

1. We have conserved our water usage for years because it is one thing we can do consistently to help our environment in a small way. I will be angry if our conservation efforts, though, support the development of new housing.

2. The increase happens too quickly. They need to spread this out over a longer period of time if it indeed needs to happen.

3. We already conserve water. Too much building = less water for everyone!

4. I have always conserved everything while I see nothing but waste all around me. Then the water department and PG&E says, ‘Hey, lower your usage from last year and you get a break!’ I’m already as low as I’m willing to go. Water on a timer. I haven’t watered since the beginning of November. I have an auto thermostat with heat on only approximately four hours per day, and set at 65. I bought all new appliances with no pilot lights. I bought a new tankless water heater ” all to try to conserve. Now, I’m asked to conserve more. I think all the houses and buildings built over the last five years should get the rate hikes. They cased the higher usage and the demand for a bigger facility to accommodate the waste.

5. The City Council has failed for years to maintain the sewer treatment plant and is now faced with a bigger problem. It has also allowed growth over and above what the water and treatment plant can provide. So once again, the people of Petaluma get slammed and have to pay more to bail out the city because of its lack of proper management.

Make the developers pay for this as a condition of building, don’t hurt the people that have faithfully paid their bills and taxes all these years. That was intended to maintain this resource.

6. Why is this happening? Is it because the city didn’t figure on the sewers getting old and the water running low?

7. I already conserve as much water as I can.

8. The rates have increased a lot the last few years. Some of us Petalumans cannot even afford to water our lawns or take an extra shower. My water bill is more than my PG&E and most other bills combined! Could the city, maybe, bill us every month or on one standard rate plan? Something different needs to be done or a lot of people will go without water.

9. We need better incentives to remove or reduce existing lawn areas and replace with less water-needy landscaping. A decade ago, the City Council allowed developers to place too much lawn area, the cheapest to plant, in order to fulfill landscape requirements.

10. Well, we have to start to get water conservation to be a topic at home. In the work place and in our schools. We’ve done it before with plenty of other things. If we all show an effort as a town, there will be a big effect.

11. Senior citizens who are home all day, thus flushing at home, get to pay more than their fair share since the away-from-home employed get to flush free and the employer pays for every flush! If rates increase, this should be listed as one of their benefits. Most seniors are on fixed incomes. No flush fund increases!

12. We’re getting ripped off. Every year we pay more for gas, natural gas, electricity, water, sewage, sales tax, property taxes. When is the madness going to end?

13. It seems that sewer rates never go down, only up, up and up. What does Petaluma do with the money? How much did the new water building cost? We keep buying the sewer system over and over.

14. How many more increases do we need to fund the new plant? Last year, they stated the increases were to fund the plant. So is this going to keep happening every year?

15. The need for these serious increases are a result of our years of build, build, build. City Councils have neglected out city’s infrastructure.

16. Petaluma is full of liberal waste and usual politics ” take care of the people who have had opportunities in life, but blew it on losers, drugs, alcohol, but tax the people who work hard, and are productive. David Glass is the worst mayor we’ve had, only but to be replaced with a more liberal spender ” Pam Torliatt. Take money from my kids and give it to the losers of society, all in the name of a pretend ‘improvement’ in our water/sewer system. Just another excuse to charge us more without any oversight. Get used to it with the recent election of spend-and-go Democrats. Republicans blew it with their liberal spending too. Toss them all out!

17. The planned increases are excessive. I will not be able to live in Petaluma.

18. Utilities are already hard for people to afford. We need to look at other ways to fix things, like cutting CEO and executive salaries.

19. What bothers me is that with the first sewer and water rate increase, the first thing that was done was to build a brand new office on McDowell. With the realization of water availability getting to be such an issue, perhaps the city council will quit rubber-stamping new development. OK, wishful thinking.

20. Why not raise it 100 percent? That way the crooks can steal more of my hard-earned money. I will have to start crapping in the river to save money.