BY DONNA WESTFALL
CREDIT TO CHANNEL 13 NEWS (CBS13)
Doubling of sewer rates.
This time it’s not Crescent City, but rather the City of Dixon near Sacramento. Their rates are due to go from $24/month to $48/month. How does that compare to ours? Theirs is lower.
Dixon’s City Council says it needs a new wastewater treatment plant that meets state pollution standards, but protesters claim there’s an alternative that would cut the $30 million price tag to $500,000. How? By a company called In-Line.
Since the Prop 218 protesters did not collect enough signatures, an initiative was created. This time enough signatures were collected to put the issue to the vote. However, City Attorney, Doug White, decided that the “attached paperwork” was not attached showing the rates thus the necessary elements were not met and the signatures were thrown out.
More than 100 people carrying protest signs and attending the city council meeting Tuesday night, July 24, demanded that this issue go to the ballot. (See video and story at: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2014/06/24/dixon-residents-may-get-chance-to-vote-on-c)
Relenting, the Dixon City Council has decided to put the issue on the July 8th meeting to make a definitive decision.
Similarly, in Crescent City, the issue of another rate increase beginning July 2nd will face a referendum. The City Council has already doubled the rates in 2008. The last sewer rate increase went into effect May, 2013. The sewer enterprise fund continues to run in the red. Many resident/ratepayers on fixed incomes state they are not getting a cost of living increase to keep pace with the sewer rate increases.
Back in 2007, Crescent City sent out the first ever Public Notice announcing the doubling of the sewer rates to fund the one and only bid for $37 + million now a $43.8 million loan for the upgrade/expansion. Most people thought it was junk mail. Indeed it wasn’t. More than enough signatures were submitted to City Hall. Many that should have been counted weren’t. The Prop 218 protest was called a failure. A recall was started against the city clerk who decided to retire. An initiative was circulated. Enough signatures were considered valid. Instead of allowing the issue to go to vote, City Hall sued one of their own to keep it off the ballot. Judge Morrison declared he was afraid that the city would become bankrupt due to the various city witnesses’ testimony including former City Manager, Rod Butler.
Members and supporters of the newly created Crescent City-Del Norte County Taxpayers Association will begin circulating the referendum for signatures. The difference this time; instead of all ratepayers allowed to protest the rate increase under Prop 218, only city registered voters will be allowed to sign the referendum petition. 167 valid signatures are required. More than twice that amount will be submitted.
Then the City Council has two choices.
1.) They hav the power to repeal the sewer rate hike, or;
2.) They can decide to spend thousands of dollars to allow it to go to a Special Election.
Why only those two choices? If the signature collecting takes the entire 30 days that means the petitions won’t be submitted to the city until the beginning of August.
According to County Clerk, Alissia Northrup, “The official last day to qualify is 06/26/2014. I am willing to work with anyone to get a measure on the ballot as long as it does not in any way affect my printing and mailing deadlines. I would need absolutely everything before the end of July in order to keep on track with printing and mailing. I don’t know what point you are at but it would need to at least qualify pretty quickly in order to make the November ballot. All the other things ( Fiscal Analysis, Impartial Analysis & Arguments will all still be needed before the end of July) I start sending everything off to my Printers and Programmers once everything closes the first part of August.”
A referendum does not need a fiscal analysis. It’s anyone’s guess how long City Attorney, Bob Black, would take to do an impartial analysis.
Assuming everything goes like clockwork and the referendum makes it to this November’s ballot and wins, then the City cannot increase sewer rates for another year.