Final scheduled Oxnard Wastewater Ratepayers Advisory Panel meeting Wed. 2-22-17

By George Miller, originally published 2-17-17, updated 2-21-17

After several sometimes contentious, but very informative, meetings, the City wants to wrap up the Oxnard Wastewater Ratepayers Advisory Panel activities and get a vote on their final recommendations to City Council. Assistant City Manager Ruth Osuna tried to do a trial close on that at the last meeting on 2-15-17, but the panel wasn’t ready. Next meeting is scheduled for 2-22-17, 6 PM at the  Performing Arts Center.

Wastewater processing, seen at 2-9-17 Oxnard Wastewater plant tour. Photo: George Miller/

Staff presented six rate “scenarios,” as we recently reported, and tried to get the Panel members to each pick their least favorite scenarios, in an attempt to winnow them down. Panel member Aaron Starr observed that staff was trying to narrowly channel them to just staff-selected options, most of which did not address certain concerns some members have. The members instead opted to pick their most favorite ones, but they were all over the map, with nothing like consensus emerging and with additional objections/requirements discussed.

After repeated demands by Aaron Starr to obtain the rate model to us at the next meeting, the panel rejected that idea in a formal vote, but were open to any members who wanted to work with it. City Manager acceded to a request to deliver  it “promptly” to any member who wanted it (with password requested), which turned out to be Starr, Elzinga and Herrera. By this moning, Staff still hadn’t delivered the model. What constitutes “promptly?” Would it be to allow enough time to work with it sufficiently before the upcoming supposedly final meeting?

Late bulletin: The City has delivered the rate model, via Asst, City Attorney Shiri Klima, but without some passwords as requested. An email from Ruth Osuna asserts that she believes that this is in compliance with the agreement from the last panel meeting and attempts to justify the locked areas. Her words: “The items that are locked are not subject to variance, such as those that the City is required by law and contract (e.g., the bonds) to pay. The items that are unlocked are subject to variance. That is how the model works.”  

Starr strongly disagrees and told us that a preliminary exploration showed that some sheets are locked, although visible and cannot even be copied, which would be needed to easily develop alternative scenarios. He believes that some variable should be open to at least “what-if” simulations . He also suspects that these constraints were retrofitted into the model at the last minute to foil just that and that this might have accounted for the failure by the City to deliver it to Panel members “promptly” as agreed last Wednesday. This has severely reduced the time available for review before what is billed as the final panel meeting on Wednesday, 2-22-17.


Meeting videoo by Dan Pinedo


The agenda for the 2-22-17 meeting: Agenda_URAP Meeting #5_02222017

Key business to be discussed:

1. SUBJECT: Responses to questions by URAP members from the prior URAP meetings and emails. 2. SUBJECT: Discussion of panel members and alternatives’ suggested rate scenarios from URAP meeting on February 15, 2017. 3. SUBJECT: Review, discussion, and decision to recommend one or more wastewater rate scenarios to the Utilities Task Force. RECOMMENDATION: That the URAP vote on one or more wastewater rate scenarios to recommend for the City’s new wastewater rate increases. 4. SUBJECT: Overview of various aspects of Ratepayers’ Assistance Programs with examples of programs throughout Ventura County.


We received from Aaron Starr these recommended motions which presumably would be in addition to any rate recommendations  …..

URAP Proposed Recommendations

1)  Move to recommend that the city council require that the Cost of Service Study list the planned emergency repairs and capital improvement projects, along with their expected costs and completion dates, and that the city council establish a policy that each utility shall make an annual report to the council regarding all such emergency repairs capital improvement projects included in the most recent Cost of Service Study.  The report shall itemize for each project the following:

  • construction status
  • original projected date of completion from the Cost of Service Study
  • revised projected date of completion
  • original projected costs from the Cost of Service Study
  • costs incurred to-date
  • revised projected costs-to-completion

2)  Move to recommend that the city council establish a policy requiring council approval of a business plan (including ROI and payback period calculations) prior to incurring costs for a new or revised project whose purpose includes generating new or increased revenue streams or reducing future expense.

3)  Move to recommend that the city council eliminate its 1.25 debt coverage policy for utilities, once the reserves reach 50% of annual debt service costs and revert to those debt coverage requirements specified in the bond instruments.

4)  Move to recommend that the City of Oxnard no longer charge an infrastructure use fee.

5)  Move to recommend that the council ordinance establish a fixed set of wastewater rates with no CPI adjustments for operations and maintenance, except that rates may be increased or decreased based on changes to the cost of pass-throughs, which include only non-discretionary inputs not under the control or influence of the city, such as electricity, chemicals and landfill tipping fees, as opposed to labor and outside contractors.

6) It is the sense of the Oxnard Utility Ratepayers Advisory Panel that the time frame given for making recommendations was unrealistically short and that better analysis could have been performed by the panel if needed information, even if only in draft form, was available to the panel at an earlier date.


The rate model battle- recent emails

—–Original Message—–
From: Ruth Osuna <[email protected]>
To: Bert Perello <[email protected]>
Cc:  (redacted by editor)
Sent: Fri, Feb 17, 2017 7:45 pm
Subject: Re: 2017 Wastewater Rates Model

Councilman Perello –

The items that are locked are not subject to variance, such as those that the City is required by law and contract (e.g., the bonds) to pay. The items that are unlocked are subject to variance. That is how the model works.

On Feb 17, 2017, at 8:32 PM, Bert Perello <[email protected]> wrote:

I received this inquire and as I was in attendance at the URAP meeting I as well as others heard what was said  . Mr Starr did ask for what he is again asking for ( and note the time he gave city to respond before asking again a second time ) I draw my own conclusions from this interaction and will address it at the approaches time .


This does not bring respect to the name of the City of Oxnard  which I was elected to serve . I hope those involved see that . No sane one eyed person removes the remaining good eye in order to see better I would hope those involved understand that .

Councilmember Perello

———- Forwarded message ———
From: <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 6:06 PM
Subject: Fwd: 2017 Wastewater Rates Model
To: Bert Perello <[email protected]>



Begin forwarded message:

From: “Aaron Starr” <[email protected]>
Date: February 17, 2017 at 5:46:18 PM PST
To: “‘Klima, Shiri'” <[email protected]>
Cc: “Nyhoff, Greg” <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: 2017 Wastewater Rates Model

Hello Shiri,

May I please have the password to unlock the sheets?

That was part of my request from Wednesday night.

Thank you.

Aaron Starr

[email protected]


From: Klima, Shiri [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2017 5:33 PM
To: Shiri Klima
Subject: 2017 Wastewater Rates Model

Good afternoon everyone,

As requested, attached is the City’s latest wastewater rates model.

Have a great weekend,

Shiri Klima

Assistant City Attorney

City of Oxnard

300 W. Third St. Suite 300
Oxnard, CA 93030
Phone: 805.385.7487

[email protected]


From: [email protected]
Date: February 17, 2017 at 3:25:50 PM PST
To: Ruth Osuna <[email protected]>
Cc: “Nyhoff, Greg” <[email protected]>, “Johnson, Kyron” <[email protected]>, Shiri Klima <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Utility Ratepayers Advisory Panel meeting #5_Agenda
Thank you. I am quite confident that Greg has surrounded himself with managers who are capable of figuring out a way to deliver to us the rate model before staff leaves for the weekend. He is top notch and you would not be there if it was not the case.
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.
Aaron Starr

Sent from my iPhone


On Feb 17, 2017, at 3:10 PM, Ruth Osuna <[email protected]> wrote:
Aaron – staff has been working to get the rate model out to you today.  While you requested the rate model be sent to you today, staff did not promise it would be sent today.
We understand that it is preferable for everyone to have the rate model today so everyone can have the weekend to review it. We also want to make sure that we send you something that you can work with. Earlier today, staff could not open it up. And, we don’t want anyone to think that this was done in a purposeful way.  It is therefore, better, to send something that can be easily accessed.
Lastly, just a short while ago you sent a request to change the URAP agenda.  The agenda item is written broad enough to include your items in the discussion.   Therefore, the agenda is ok as is posted.
Thanks for your patience. We have staff taking care of other critical issues due to the storm.  We are trying our best to get the information out in a timely manner.
Sent from my iPhone
On Feb 17, 2017, at 3:40 PM, Aaron Starr <[email protected]> wrote:

Hello Greg,

I have not heard back from Kyron, perhaps because he has already left for the holiday weekend.

I just don’t want this to fall through the cracks and have someone claim that there was a failure to provide notice and therefore no ability to discuss a matter.

Thank you.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Aaron Starr <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 10:30 AM
Subject: Re: Rate model
To: Ruth Osuna <[email protected]>
Cc: “Nyhoff, Greg” <[email protected]>, Kyron Johnson <[email protected]>
Ruth,Thank you.Let me take this moment to acknowledge the three of you for wanting to work with me on this.The good faith providing of timely information to those requesting it will help restore people’s confidence in the City of Oxnard.I look forward to reviewing the formulas and data in the spreadsheet model. I know that a lot of thought went into the model by Alex Bugbee and members of staff.Take care,Aaron StarrOn Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 9:00 AM, Ruth Osuna <[email protected]> wrote:

Mr. Starr:  Staff is currently working distributing the model today.


On Feb 17, 2017, at 9:38 AM, Aaron Starr <[email protected]> wrote:

Hello Greg,

I hope you are doing well.

I realize that there is no way someone with your scope of responsibilities can keep track of whether every commitment made by staff is fulfilled, so I just want you to be aware that the rate model spreadsheet promised to me on Wednesday night has not yet been emailed to me (and I assume two other panel members who requested it).

I’m sure that’s just an oversight by your staff. I would appreciate it receiving it sometime today so that I may review it over the weekend. I understand that City Hall is closed on Monday.

My supporters are asking me if the City intends to provide this model at such a late date or time that it would be unreasonable for someone to be able to study it thoroughly prior to the next URAP meeting. I expressed my confidence to them that our City Manager would not tolerate having his staff engage in such a tactic that would reflect so poorly on the City.

Thank you in advance for helping to remedy this.

Take care,

Aaron Starr


—–Original Message—–
From: Ruth Osuna <[email protected]>
To: George Miller
Cc: Greg Nyhoff <[email protected]>; Shiri Klima <[email protected]>; Daniel Rydberg <[email protected]>; Jane Light <jane XXXXXX>; kyron.johnson <[email protected]>
Sent: Fri, Feb 17, 2017 8:53 am
Subject: Rate Model

Mr. Miller – Staff is working on getting the rate model out today.

It was provided to staff late last night and I have seen that it is
difficult to open.

We will work out the bugs and get it to everyone who requested it, today.



—–Original Message—–
From: George Miller
To: ruth.osuna <[email protected]>
Cc: jim.throop <[email protected]>; daniel.rydberg <[email protected]>; greg.nyhoff <[email protected]>
Sent: Thu, Feb 16, 2017 1:12 pm
Subject: Re: Wastewater Rate Model

Hi Ms. Osuna:
When will it be sent?
George Miller


—–Original Message—–
From: Osuna, Ruth <[email protected]>
To: George Miller
Cc: Jim Throop <[email protected]>; Rydberg, Dan <[email protected]>; Greg Nyhoff <[email protected]>
Sent: Thu, Feb 16, 2017 1:10 pm
Subject: Re: Wastewater Rate Model

No, Mr. Miller, we have not.


On Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 1:10 PM, <[email protected]> wrote:

Good afternoon, folks:
Have you sent the rate model to Starr, Elzinga and Herrera yet?
May I have a copy?
George Miller

Ruth Osuna

Assistant City Manager


George Miller is Publisher of and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard

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