Water and sewer rates in Twain Harte are expected to go up by mid-summer 2003.

The amount of the hikes has not yet been determined, Twain Harte

Community Services District Manager Don Kasso said Wednesday. "That depends partly on what TUD (Tuolumne Utilities District) does," he said.

The district has been told informally during committee meetings that TUD will soon raise its rates to the district, said Kasso.

The utility sells raw water to the district, and Twain Harte's raw sewage is piped into TUD lines for treatment.

"But we don't want to blame our rate hike on TUD," said Kasso. "The cost of everything we do has gone up. It just takes more money to do what we do than it did in 1998 when we last raised our rates."

The district now charges $17 per month per residential customer for water plus additional fees for using more than 2,000 gallons. The sewer fee is $15 per month.

The last rate hike was in April 1998, when monthly water fees went up 13 percent from $15, and the sewer bills were raised 15 percent from $13.

Bill Bryant, longtime district director, said the public has supported the district in the past when it has needed to increase rates.

"We are honest with the community," he said, "? and they have never turned us down yet."

Board Chairman Packy Maxwell said the district has had to dip into its reserves to keep providing safe water at the aging water treatment plant, and that needs to stop.

The process of raising rates, including public hearings, is expected to take six to eight months, much of it spent "educating the public" about the need. The final decision will be made by the board of directors after public hearings.

The district directors invited Jean Thompson, a training specialist with the California Rural Water Association, to advise them on how to go about the process.