BY DONNA WESTFALL – March 5, 2013
Those of you sitting on the potty currently paying $64.32 a month to be able to flush your toilet into our state-of-the-art waste water treatment plant; starting in May you’re likely to see those rates go to $69.70 a month in the City and$60.95 in the County.
Doesn’t seem like a lot. But, can you afford it? Are you going to have to eat less? Are you going to have to switch between paying the electric bill, water/sewer bill or telephone. (By the way, when I checked on energy usage lately at Pacific Power and the operator asked me if there was anything else he could do for me I asked him to tell the executives at Pacific Power to consider cutting their salaries and benefits instead of increasing the rates every year. He laughed. But, he said he would pass on my request.)
Which begs the question; why isn’t the city having a 10% across the board reduction in expenses?
Here’s the good news – bad news about the sewer rate increase.
Good News: That’s the last increase based on the Prop 218 vote shoved down our throats in 2007. Because former city clerk, Dianne Nickerson, miscounted the vote. The Grand Jury did not investigate thoroughly. And so we’re left holding the bag. Now, in order to increase the rates again, they have to hold another Prop 218 protest vote.
Bad News: Be prepared that they will try to increase the rates again. Soon. Because they’re running at a huge deficit. They are hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole. Last council meeting it was over $800,000. Don’t be surprised if a proposed rate increase happens this year. (NOTE: The only way to stop another rate increase is to submit a PROTEST with you name, address, signature and date. They will not accept e-mail responses. It has to be signed and an original. Also best to include the assessor’s parcel number. Ratepayers and property owners can submit protests. Get prepared.)
Last night at the city council meeting, Agenda Item # 10, all five voted to increase the sewer rate. Next month will be the second reading of the Ordinance putting this into effect and then around May 1st, the increase is set in stone.
Also all five voted to contract with Willdan Financial to update the City’s water and sewer rate studies on Agenda Item #9. They’re the ones that did the original rate study that doubled your sewer rates.
This next bit of news is going to blow you away.
How do you like paying other people’s bills?
You see, I went in several years ago and met with then Public Works Director, Jim Barnts, to look over the Willdan report showing expansion to be 11.8%. Stay with me here. It’s not that complicated. According to Prop 218, DEVELOPERS are supposed to pay for expansion.
Also, according to Prop 218, RATEPAYERS are supposed to pay for operations and maintenance.
Here’s the problem. We don’t have enough developers to pay for the expansion so guess who gets to pay? Answer: YOU.
But here’s another angle to consider. We weren’t told this was all about expansion. We were sold a bill of goods that this was just an UPGRADE. Ummmm.
UPGRADE v EXPANSION.
Here’s why I believe it’s primarily about expansion.
They installed something called a Membrane Bio Reactor. It costs like $30 million. We never had one before. That means it’s brand, spanking new and it goes to the issue of pure expansion. People of the public told them this was too expensive. Told them it was too expensive to maintain. The public was ignored and the city is in the red. Brilliant. If you calculate the percentage of $30 million into $42.5 million then the expansion rate is 70%. I believe we have some creative number crunching going on for them to come up with 11.8% expansion. Remember that percentage: 11.8%.
They took out a little generator and replaced it with a generator the size of some houses. That isn’t a replacement. That’s expansion. And on and on it goes.
We were also sold a bill of goods by Mr. Barnts about the 2400 square foot lab. This cost us $2 1/2 million. We were told it would pay for itself in 2 1/2 years. Never happened. Because if it started making a profit, by now it would be generating enough income to help pay down the $43.8 million loan with the State. I don’t believe the lab has made 1 cent so far.
I don’t like being deceived. Deceived we were.
I don’t like paying other people’s bills. But, I believe that’s what is happening.
Agenda Item # 8 was to review and discuss the City’s Water and Sewer 5 year capital improvement plan. Question: How much of these should be placed on the backs of the ratepayers?
It’s interesting to note that every time they discuss our sewer rates they pull out all the rates of surrounding communities as a comparison. What they don’t tell you is that the average rate in the state of California is $40 per month.
For those of you that rent and have utilities included in your payment, better believe that your rent is going to go up just like hundreds of other renters rates because the owners can’t absorb all these increases. This is why we have inflation. There’s absolutely nothing that will stop our city council from staying on this course. There is not one city council member interested in doing something about the burden placed on your family’s finances. But, I could be wrong. Look up the city council members at the city’s website: www.crescentcity.org. Call them. E-mail them. Ask them questions. See if they have any ideas or solutions that will help your situation or will address the issue of expansion.