“Enough is enough,” say the Board of Directors and Officers of the Crescent City-Del Norte County Taxpayers Association upon hearing of the City’s plan to increase the sewer rate another 25%. The Taxpayers Association plans on initiating a lawsuit against the City for malfeasance for the city’s refusal to investigate.
Board member Wes Nunn had this to say, “Over the years when blatant fraud was reported to the City, they refused to act on it. Not only did they refuse to do even the most cursory investigation, they censured and sued one of their own when she repeatedly brought the subject up. Recently, the city destroyed documents having to do with the expansion component, one of the main points of investigation to do with fraud. Now that the city is in default, it’s time they took a hard look at the reasons why they went into default on the loan.”
When Colburn Electric was falsifying payroll and not paying their workers overtime, it wasn’t the City or Stover Engineering who was in charge of labor compliance that brought the matter up. It was the Electrical Union out of Eureka, Calif. Even former Council member, Kelly Schellong, tried to cover-up for it by saying there was nothing wrong and commonly large projects worked 4 days for 10 hours a day. WRONG Schellong. That cost the city $165,000 in lost penalties. Which begs the question, how many thousands of dollars did Stover Engineering get paid for Labor Compliance? Why did they get paid if the they dropped the ball? Why do the ratepayers have to foot the bill for all of this? All good questions which were brought up at the time and IGNORED. That goes to the issue of malfeasance by the City Council.
When questions about double and triple billing were brought up by former Council member, Donna Westfall, instead of investigating, the council voted to pay. When questions about designer error were brought up, the council voted to pay. After a tour of the lab, many deficiencies and design flaws were not fixed. The Council voted to pay. They are still not fixed, yet the contractor was paid and the ratepayers are on the hook for the loan. When questions about the Harbor’s usage of the sewer system were brought, questions were never answered. How much capacity is devoted to the Harbor? How much is the Harbor paying? When former Public Works Director, Jim Barnts, went to bat for Stover Engineering needing an extra $1 million, the council voted to pay.
Every time the City Council voted to pay meant that 100% of the $44 million loan would be borne by the ratepayers. As a reminder, ratepayers are only supposed to pay for operations and maintenance. However, since there’s so little development going on here, the expansion component is not being paid for by developers. When Westfall asked for a formula to calculate what the developers should pay she was rebuffed. If a formula existed, then it’s conceivable that ratepayers could be refunded the difference at some point in the future when developers finally paid their fair share. But, a formula was never created.
Sewer rates will continue to climb with no end in sight particularly since Utilities Manager, Eric Wier, went looking for another $36 million for Phase 2 at the November 18, 2014 State Water Board meeting.
The City has to develop a Plan B. They have never had a Plan B. It’s time they did because enough is enough.
Those interested in supporting the lawsuit are encouraged to contribute to the Tax Association’s legal fund. Checks can be made out to Crescent City-Del Norte County Taxpayers Association, or CC-DN County Tax Assn for short. Credit cards are also accepted. Call Heather Murphy, fundraising chair at (707) 954-2249.