BY MICHAEL CEREMELLO,
FORMER VICE MAYOR, COUNCILMAN CITY OF DIXON
An interesting development in the ongoing waste water battles between the State of California unelected bureaucrats and the cities being forced to do unnecessary and costly projects saw the chickens come home to roost on Tuesday at the Joe Serna center in Sacramento. The Division of Financial Assistance, otherwise known as the State Revolving Fund decision making body of the Central Valley Region Water Quality Control Board, heard testimony from some of the five members of Crescent City staff and a member of the council who were present and a lone advocate from the Crescent City taxpayers group.
Those representing the city, who flew to the meeting and were put up on the ratepayers’ dime, countered the Board’s offer to reduce the interest rate on the their 2008 SRF fund loan to 0 percent from 2.4% by asking the Board to tailor the payment schedule so they could pay less initially, $1,100,000 in 2015, to a final amount of $1,697,662 starting in 2021 until the loan is paid off. The city sent in a partial payment this year saying neither the sewer enterprise fund nor the general fund had the resources to make the payment with interest. According to the Board’s staff report, the State will forgo $522,284 in interest payments resulting in a loss of revenue to the fund of $15,470,347.
The resolution before the Board was to reduce the interest rate to zero and to allow the deputy director to modify yearly payments so long as the cumulative payments result in full recovery of all principal on the financing agreement. The discussion from the Board focused on what would happen if proposed rate increases could not be implemented. An unidentified staff member sitting next to main presenter Chris Stevens told one board member he would rather not say (publicly) what additional options they can find. One of the board members suggested “grants” which other cities have been told “no longer exist”.
Linda Sutter, the secretary of the Crescent City – Del Norte County Taxpayers Association, spoke to the board about her city’s lack of frugality exemplified by the fact she drove to the meeting while city staff took the more costly approach. Sutter also pointed out the basis for making the loan was incorrect because there are not 7000 rate paying citizens in Crescent City because half the population are incarcerated in the Pelican Bay prison. She also stated the taxpayer groups across California are in communication, specifically mentioning the city of Dixon’s treatment by this Board last August.
The attitude of the State Board is that they don’t care if the rate payers object; they expect their city governors to find a way around it. In fact, the staff report provides an example of the extent to which cities blame their citizens rather than listen to them.
In a letter dated January 31, 2014, the City formally requested a modification to its agreement. The letter explained that the City has had to deal with multiple rate rollback initiatives, referenda to stop rate increases, and litigation to stop the rollbacks. The five rate increases that were planned when the financing agreement was approved were deferred, but eventually implemented by the City.
According to our sources, this project was to cost between $20 and $30 million in 2006 and the city received confirmation for a $25 million loan. After the city received only one bid for $37.7 million in 2007, they went back to the Board asking for additional loan money. There are documents showing many other additional potential contractors who declined to bid as being “too far” away. Many within the taxpayer group feel this contract was given inappropriately and illegally. Why the loan amount was increased to where it stands now at $43 million remains unexplained.
The city of Dixon is in a slightly different scenario. While they have a loan approved for $28.5 million, the Board has not released any funds at this point and stated they would not unless rates held up. The Dixon Chapter of the Solano County Taxpayers Association filed 1788 signatures on petitions to rescind the recent sewer rate increaseon November 12th. After these signatures are verified for validity, the city council has two choices according to State Election codes: to place it on the ballot or rescind their ordinance.
Another similarity between the two cities is that Crescent City’s public works director, Eric Wier, told the board they would need another $36 million for a “phase 2”. Dixon essentially is setting themselves up to do the same as their project, activated sludge, does not remove the constituents of concern to the State Water Board and a “membrane bio-reactor” such as was funded in Crescent City will probably be forced on the city by the board or an even more complete tertiary treatment system.
The real bottom line to this story is the bureaucrats who approved the loan relied on consultants who provided false figures of the true rate paying population which proves that old adage “statistics can be made to lie”. Caught between a rock and a hard place, these unelected SRF officials either have to put up millions of tax payer dollars or reject the egregious demands of their out of control mother agency which push communities toward bankruptcy.
It appears the story is far from over for either Crescent City or Dixon. Rather than looking for less costly solutions, it appears Crescent City’s council would rather face bankruptcy than admit their dereliction of duty to their citizens. That’s what happens when your city governors look at their citizens as only cash cows to be milked.
10 thoughts on “State Revolving Fund Attempts To Forestall Crescent City Bankruptcy”
The high school friend that you talked to is on spetic.Pleasae feel free to call me if you have any questions Linda. I consider myself a conservative democrat.Also,
Linda, the one thing I don’t do is lie. I have no reason to.Talk to Donna about it, I am am sure she will tell you.
I have never been called a liberal before or been labeled in anyway. My wife was born and raised here and all her family lives here. I lived here in the 1970’s when I worked here as as Police Officer.I do agree with you on the state needs to be shown what they are doing to small cities. Since I have been on the council,we do not use speaker cards,howver, the 3 minutes to speak is in force and that is with the Board of Supervisors and every board that I know of in this county. I have been here 12 years and that has always been in use. I look forward to meeting you this spring.
Well consider it a first then and long overdue. If you aren’t a liberal, why are you a registered Democrat? Perhaps, even worse, you consider yourself to be a “progressive”, a.k.a. “statist”, a.k.a. communist/socialist? Your actions define you despite your feeble denials.
I do congratulate you on the elimination of speaker cards as I found it much easier to just call on the public present to speak at will on each and every item. However, the speaker time limit of three minutes is unnecessary and below the minimal limit of 5 minutes defined in an attorney general ruling or statement as being the definition of “reasonable”. Try to keep up.
If you truly wanted input from your citizens, you would not have speaker time limits. All opposed it here in Dixon including outside “liberal/progressive” newspapers such as the Vacaville Repeater (Reporter). As demonstrated once I got on the council, very few meetings were extended by reason of unlimited public input. Only after I lost an election to the mayor did he start to impose speaking time limits. He knew he couldn’t get away with it while I was a seated councilman. By the way, the mayor was part of the penal system as a pencil pushing assistant warden who was too timid to enter the inmate population but bragged about his interactions.
I am challenging you to think outside of the box of “this has always been the way it is” and go with “this best serves the public who is my master”. Try to understand who are your bosses. If you come to the conclusion that it is all of the voters, no matter whether they voted for you or not, you will be on the right path.
Most if not all elected officials only think they are responsible to the whims of those who put them in office. Most have their own agenda and many councilmen don’t recognize they have a duty to uphold the Constitutions they took an oath of office to defend rather than to use the color of the law to punish their opponents.
As a former police officer, you are at a disadvantage because your career has left you with the belief that those with power are above the average citizen. I have seen this many times and it leads to tyranny. Very few of us can say “NO” to people at higher levels of government. The council before me actually had no backbone at all and said that their appointees on our waste water committee could do what they couldn’t: stand up to the State Water Board. No, it wasn’t the committee members.
It was the Dixon Chapter of the Solano County Taxpayers Association.
Ever play cards with a partner? One of my favorite sayings came from when one of the guys who taught me the game said to his partner, “It’s hard playing against three”.
That is what we do. We fight city councils. We fight city staffs. We fight out of control State agencies. And, surprisingly, we often win despite no support from those who are lying to us saying they serve us. They only serve themselves and those they enjoy kissing their behinds.
I am proud to say I fight only for the common man and the citizens of my town. Exactly what example can you give me that you have done the same for anyone in your town?
There are some who say it is no secret the thing you do best is lie. You even lied to your highschool friend that his water and sewer rates would not increase so that he would not sign the 218 protest. You lied to your constituents by telling them your heart was really republican when you were registered as a democrat. So why should anyone take your word about anything. Additionally your “staff” are the ones who informed us everyone flew to this emergency meeting. Regardless you seem to think it is ok to fatten your bellies as you see fit. The greed of this council resembles pigs at the trough. If you think your constituents are going to give up this fight of keeping our rates reasonable think again. I will be damned if you think this city will get another $36 million placed on our backs.
I will look forward to meeting you in person when you visit here. I will show you the Northern California list of cities and their rates. I was a respected Police Officer for over 30 years and not a con artist. I care for my city as much as you care for yours. In fact,I grew up in Pittsburg,Ca. Not far from Dixon. I grew up in a very diverse and poor community and I know how hard it is to earn every dollar I made and provide for my family.By the way,I return all my calls and I was not commanding you to call me. Best regards
As with most liberals, you avoid the question and change the subject. I also have a list of what every community in California pays for sewer and not just a few communities surrounding my town. The main point is just because others are paying exorbitant rates, that should not be used as an excuse to force your citizens to pay more for the unnecessary.
The question you failed to answer is “do you still only allow citizens to speak for three minutes on any agenda item?” I drove some 750 plus miles round trip to speak to your council. I filled out a card to speak to every item on your agenda because of your time limit. It is illegal to force someone to fill out a card in order to speak but I did not feel like arguing the point at that time. Again, the point is you don’t give a damn about your citizens and their “diverse” viewpoints which differ from what the status quo wants to accomplish.
As for you being a “respected police officer for over 30 years”, I have personal experience in dealing with two councilmen who were both retired police officers and have done nothing but blindly support the mayor and the staff rather than serve the public. It seems the police’s idea of serving the public is more of a shepherd’s duty than it is being their servant. “To serve and protect” is a bad joke in many instances.
Also, I am familiar with Pittsburg, both cities of that name as a matter of fact. Obviously your bosses in California could not solve the problem of low employment in their town but had no problem building a large modern new city hall. I drove through the old down town and saw old beautiful buildings sitting idle. Why did you feel the need to go to Crescent City when the town which provided your livelihood for years needed so much attention?
In other words, Richard, I have dealt with people of your ilk for years and seen your incompetence and chicanery. I do not have the time to waste listening to someone who won’t look outside the box and doesn’t serve his community. I seriously doubt you want to hear what other options were available or how to get your city out of the predicament you wormed your way into.
Just to give you something to think about, you really need to consider having your town file bankruptcy rather than your citizens doing this individually. The State needs to be shown what they are doing to small communities such as yours who can’t afford their grand schemes exacerbated by back scratching “fixed” contracts to benefit your buddies in development or construction.
I guess your rancor at having the council taken to task further irritated you to write this laughable response. Any con artist thinks because people bought his con, such as your re-election, is some mandate or proof of his credibility.
You left one message for me and it was months ago. In addition, the subject matter was somewhat different. There was no point in calling back at that time and I am not your subject to be commanded.
Dixon does have its own problem and it is called the State Water Board. Similarly, Crescent City had the same problem but rather than fight, investigate, and use appropriate deductive reasoning backed up by science, you did (or former councils) what most councils do. They caved in to this overbearing agency.
Your rates are the lowest around? There are no other cities in Del Norte county. If your constituents, who you claim to know, believed that, they would not be out doing initiatives and complaining about rates which will force them to choose between eating and paying for services they can’t afford. Exactly what is the acceptable rate for sewer and water? Why pay more if you can pay less? On top of this, you have a community of 3,500 to 4,000 and not 7,500 as claimed by the State and your consultants who included incarcerated inmates.
I am curious, though, how you seem to know so much about Dixon. Very few of our 18,000 residents are engaged in farming. We are a bedroom community of commuters. Crescent City have no jobs or other cities to commute to unless you include Arcata and Eureka outside your county.
Your assessment of having a “hard working city council” can be easily refuted. Tell me, for whom are they really working “hard”? Would that be the companies and developers, State agencies, or the people who elected you? My bet is it wouldn’t be the latter.
It is rather presumptuous of you to think you know how I feel about my city council and city. I am trying to preserve our city from the reach of bureaucrats and their sycophants who view our citizens only as cash cows. By our city, I do not mean city staff to whom I have referred as “pigs slopping at the city coffer’s trough”. I love my little town and am doing my best to protect it.
Until you understand that your constituents come first and there are other solutions available beyond membrane bio-reactor plants, there is no need for me to call you. However, I will be returning to your city in the spring for a personal appearance before your council.
Are you still limiting your constituents to all of three minutes to speak? That says much about what you think of your citizens and their thoughts.
To set the record straight, Mr. Ceremello and Ms. Sutter, 2 members flew to the meeting,as they were at the City Council meeting the night before,and had to be there in Sacramento early in the morning. The other 3 drove, saving the tax payers money and saved them 15 millon dollars. When taxpayers group speak,they must make sure they have the correct facts or their words mean nothing.
As a public records request was put in to your city on November 12th, long before the Sacramento meeting was held, your city staff could have had those facts about who would attend and how they would get there out to the public before the meeting. As those who requested the information still have not received it, it would seem both you, as a councilman, and your staff are derelict in their duty.
Also, you did not save the city $15 million. You had a contract you would have breached if the Board had not agreed. On top of that, your city would be bankrupt if they had not given you that concession.
Why not talk about the “rigged” bid for the single bidder, Wahlund, who forced you to pay at least $7 million more than anticipated. Considering that the project was initially only supposed to be $25 million, the amount the SRF people initially agreed to, it seems your councils have cost the citizens some $18 million more than they should have paid.
Only a true “politician” sees things the way you do. It seems your words mean little and you are attempting to call the kettle black rather than face up to your poor decisions not supported by those in your town.
As usual, you have it all wrong. Just being re-elected and the highest vote-getter, I think I have the pulse of our community. I have left several phone messages for you to talk about this,but you have never returned my calls. You do not know this community, and it appears you don’t want to learn more. Dixon has its own problems and is not Crescent City.
We here in Crescent City are finding solutions, our rates are still the lowest around ,even when we have to deal with many envoiron
mental issues on our beautiful coast. Dixon is farm land and has different issues. We have a very hard working City Council here and even though you are sour about your council and city, feel free to call me and we can talk about it.