LAS VEGAS -- Sticker shock has small businesses, non-profits and churches at a boiling point after seeing their water bills double, even triple in some cases, thanks to a usage fee by the Southern Nevada Water Authority that went into effect this month.
A special hearing for the businesses was held today, and there were plenty of people in attendance. Many are just now opening up their May water bills and it's soaking in that they will have to somehow pay hundreds or thousands more for a month.
One by one, people hit by the usage fee took the microphone to tell Clark County leaders about the hardships it is causing and how it may force some small businesses to close.
The usage fee is for a fire protection line that is already required.
Susan Whidmann's new small automotive repair company is supposed to open in three weeks, but because of the bill, it has already had to cut one position. Churches and budget-tight small non-profits say they have to pay at least $10,000 more a year.
Officials with the water district say they understand frustrations, but at the end of the day the utility needs to find more than $3 billion it owes to bondholders.
"Connection charges accounted for 57 percent of the revenues. That paid for everything and that revenue source has all but disappeared," said Pat Mulroy with the water district.
Mulroy says Nevada is currently in the worst drought ever seen, forcing the water district to build a third intake at Lake Mead. If the $800 million project wasn't proposed and if Lake Mead continues to drop, Mulroy says the water district will lose 40 percent of its water.
Mulroy also told the crowd if the third intake wasn't needed, the water district would never impose these charges. She says right now, they are forced to.
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