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I talked to City Councilwoman Donna Frye yesterday. She was pretty fired up about wanting to get the city to return to bimonthly billing of its residential water customers.

A bit of background: In 2002 the City Council and mayor decided to raise water rates. To make it seem like they hadn’t, they switched from sending residents a bill every other month to sending residents a bill every month.

So your water bill was actually smaller.

I’m surprised they didn’t send out a press release saying that they had actually cut residents’ water bills by nearly 50 percent.

The city, though, didn’t actually go check residents’ meters more often. To get the monthly bills, they estimate how much water we consume every other month.

Frye says it’s pretty clear that the estimate is high and residents are therefore being chronically overcharged.

She wants the city to switch back to bimonthly billing and stop this practice. She’s been unilaterally pushing this pet issue for a while.

“It’s not that much money, but it’s enough,” Frye said.

Fred Sainz, the spokesman for the mayor, confirmed that if the city switched to bimonthly billing and stopped estimating water bills for the months inspectors don’t actually read the water meters, the city would lose about $600,000.

Frye counters that the city would save money not having to send out so many bills.

So where does the mayor stand?

“We ultimately may end at bimonthly billing,” Sainz said.

But…

“The mayor is very concerned about the impact bimonthly billing will have on working class families in San Diego and their ability to save money to pay the bill,” Sainz said.

In other words, even though they’d be paying a bit less for water, the fact that the actual bill that they received would be bigger and come less often would just confuse them.

Right?

Yes:

“The water department argues — and I think very effectively — that if you increase the rates, as we’re planning now, and then you go to bimonthly billing, people will have no sense of the impact of the rate increase we’re planning,” Sainz said. “They’d get confused.”

SCOTT LEWIS

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