By Donna Westfall – October 26, 2016 – Sewer rates certainly don’t galvanize the community as much or create the types of curiosity that a sexual predator case does. Nevertheless, questions have been asked and answers need to be given.
With that, let’s ask what the City has done to mitigate the humongous, unaffordable $44 million State Revolving Fund loan?
Well, they got all interest eliminated. That’s huge!
What else have they done? This is new and something I was not aware of. Getting back to public records, Tuesday, October 25th, I received a copy of a letter dated August 5, 2014 from the State Water Board. “The City requested that 50% of the principal balance in the amount of $21.6 million be restructured as a grant and lower the principal balance by this amount.”
This is brilliant. But the State Water Board told the City that they could not reduce the principal balance by converting to grant funds. I don’t know why. That’s a good question. So, I emailed the waterboard today’s date to find out specific reasons as to why it can’t be done. I got this response Wednesday, October 26th: Per Kelly Valine, “This was the suggestion of the City. Crescent City received a loan from the State Water Board, if grant funds were used to reduce a loan balance, this would be considered a gift of state funds which is against regulations.”
The next part though is the $36 million in additional capital support over the next 10 years for Phase 2. We’ve brought this out to the public’s attention before. Now it’s time to go into further detail because it seems the city wants to keep this a secret.
THIS IS NOT A SECRET. “Another $36 to $42 million is being requested.” Why did the city feel it had to lie about this? Even to the extent of having portions of the November, 2014 Waterboards video deleted?
In their November, 2014 dog and pony show, our City representatives went in front of the Water Board to officially request the elimination of all interest. During their presentation, Public Utilities Manager, Eric Wier, stated the city needed another $36 million for Stage 2. First time I had heard that. You see, I was watching the meeting on TV because it was being prodcasted live. I requested a copy of the video. The former Secretary of the local Taxpayers Association, Linda Sutter, was there. She heard it. And Michael Ceremello also heard it. Yet Eric’s statement wasn’t on the video. After many months and back and forth emails, NO ONE WILL CONFESS THAT THAT PORTION OF THE VIDEO WAS DELETED OR HOW IT WAS DELETED, OR WHO DELETED IT. I can tell you with no uncertainty that it was deleted AND Eric Wier lied about it in a later meeting held at the WWTP conference room.
Aside from the future $36 – 42 million yet to be borrowed, where does that leave you, the ratepayer now and in the future? Well, it leaves you with $153.76 per month sewer bills between 2014 and through 2024/2025; an increase of 53% higher than the current rate of $72.20 per month. Really! The City intends to increase sewer rates by 4% to 4.5% annually. Here’s page 2 of the Water Board’s August 5, 2014 letter.
- “Both payment modification options take into consideration the City’s plan to increase sewer rates by 4% to 4.5% annually and that operating expenses will increase approximately 3% per year through fiscal year 2024/25 and then maintain the level of revenues and operating expenses. This would increase the monthly service charge over a period from 2013/14 through 2024/25 to $153.76; an increase of 53% higher than the current rate of $72.20 per month.
- It is Division staff opinion that the City must continue to decrease operating costs of the wastewater treatment plant. The projected increase of 3% for operating and maintenance costs per year will increase the monthly service charge to an estimated $153.76 in a disadvantaged community and could result in non-payment by consumers, which could affect the City’s ability to pay the annual payment on the CWSRF financing agreement.”