Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Opinion and Commentary By Donna Westfall – February 25, 2024

Every time the City wants to increase sewer rates we go in and tell them they’ve opened the door to fraud once again. Here’s why:

The City will not disclose public information. That’s a huge red flag.

The City will not provide a report on the expansion component of the wastewater treatment plant. Even if they destroyed it, there are ways to create a new one. They have not done so. How do you think the City can come up with a new sewer rate increase? They hired Willdan or a company out of Santa Barbara called Robert D. Niehaus to create a report.

Developers are supposed to be responsible for paying for expansion, NOT ratepayers. Every time a developer hooks up a new property to sewer, they have to pay a connection fee. The City has a list of every single one. They City would not provide that list upon request while in their office. Also requested was a total figure on how much developers have paid since 2007 to present. The City could hire Willdan or Robert D. Niehaus to create a report on how much connection fees could be increased. Why won’t they? Do you know how ridiculous 11.8% expansion sounds? That’s the figure they tried selling us years ago. Didn’t buy it then. Don’t buy it now. Try 50% -70% expansion as a more realistic figure.

We continue to ask for financials to find out who’s paying their fair share for the wastewater treatment plant? Ratepayers? Developers? Why is it so difficult to get this information out of our City? I’d have to say it’s the “C” word. “C” equals corruption. Remember the City of Bell, California? 4 of the 5 council members were arrested. The City Manager and City Attorney were fired, convicted, sent to prison and ordered to pay restitution. Listen, when our city council approved this past week a salary/benefit increase to nearly $1/4 million to the Fire Chief, something seemed terribly wrong. This is a small, poor community. The majority of our residents are on some form of government assistance. When the City uses Measure S (1% sales tax) money to hire 3 more Fire Captains at what looks like six figure incomes, something seems terribly wrong. Particularly since the majority of those call outs are not fire structure related.

Our City will not take responsibility for the problems they have created for this town and it’s residents by borrowing twice as much as they could afford on the wastewater treatment plant.

Let’s take a look at the City’s VALUES which you can find on their website:

VALUES:

Accountability
Honesty & Integrity
Excellent Customer Service
Effective & Active Communication
Community Partnerships Fiscal Responsibility

These statements are the basis for the City’s Strategic Plan.

In 2010, the City sued me and my husband to keep the sewer rate increase off the ballot. We had Attorney Tim Biddle from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association represent us in court. He told the Judge that the City didn’t need to increase sewer rates and offered some solutions. One was to hire a private contractor to run the wastewater treatment plant. The City did not listen then. It took the City until 2019 to finally take that step. I have no idea how much money it cost all of us by waiting nine years to take that step. I would guess millions.

What are we supposed to do when our leadership is not being honest, accountable or any of the rest that they espouse to be? Send them a Cease and Desist Notice which was done on February 22, 2024. If they do not provide documents within 10 days, a Writ of Mandate will be submitted to the Court.

If you pay a sewer bill, wouldn’t you like to know whether or not you’re getting ripped off?

3 thoughts on “What is the City Hiding?”
  1. 1. First, the City manipulated the expansion component prior to construction to as little as 11.8% as a maneuver to give an unlawful discount to the developers by putting nearly 90% of the burden on the ratepayers.
    2. Later, after repeated requests to review the expansion reports (which the City always refused), the City finally ordered that all reports and documents pertaining to the 11.8% expansion component be destroyed although there may be law prohibiting the destruction of these documents for the lifetime of the state loan because the documents were part of the loan qualification. The way I see it, the City chose the unlawful act of destroying documents because letting the documents remain in existence provided hard evidence of far greater illegalities and liabilities for the City.
    3. The data that remains, including viewing the plant itself, strongly suggests the expansion component is much closer to 70% than 11.8%, based on such factors as unlimited connections (and many hundreds already added), larger pipes installed for greater capacity, and especially the far larger capacity of the newly added sewer plant mechanical components themselves.

    So, yeah, of course they’re going to avoid those questions and avoid producing any remaining documents.

    1. Interesting. Just one more instance where there is “no law north of the Klamath.” One must also remember the B Street Pier incident of about 1988 where fires were occurring regularly on the old pier and the City Council ordered the fire department to not respond to future fires on the pier. The day after the city council meeting, a fire broke out on the pier. C Ray Smith, Richard Wier and others were implicated in this fire which destroyed the old pier and led to the building of the present one.

  2. Article in Wild Rivers Outpost says developer already has 16 units and approval for 56 more units behind California Auto Image. These are going to be 2 and 3 bedroom units. Well here goes my water and garbage rates going up AGAIN. How about the traffic on Washington and Northcrest Dr. Guess it’s good I have septic or a sewage rate would surely go up. Do we have enough water and can they even handle more garbage and sewage? When they approve expansion do they even consider infrastructure? So much for the peaceful little town I knew. Now we get more Traffic, lines in the stores, and crowded beaches.

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