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    Santa Paula: Water and Sewer Rate Increase Brings New Speakers and Issues

    By Sheryl Hamlin

    The November 6, 2019 Santa Paula City Council meeting brought new speakers to discuss the effects of rate increases. In a prepared statement, Mayor Garman said that Public Comments were not to be considered official “protests” until the proper form was filled and signed. A table was provided for this purpose in the room. Ballots were accepted until the end of the Public Hearing for this item.

    Public Comments

    Nine citizens spoke in Public Comments. Several speakers spoke in Spanish. There was no request for translation.

    Larry Diamond reported on commercial property near the river having multiple meters: sewer, water and irrigation. One of his meters is a large, 1 ½” meter, whose costs double under the new scheme. His total bill before delivery of water will go to $2450 annually.

    Gabriel Gill who lives on Telegraph and owns property on Peck said the city’s estimates of replacements were too frequent and he said the ballot and brochure were too complicated for low ability readers.

    Doug Henning of SPUSD said the bill for the district’s 45 meters would go from $274,000 annually to $519,000 annually.

    What is notable about these speakers is that they were making first time appearances about the rate increases and represented the first time commercial/industrial users spoke up about the negative effect of the rates.

    After Public Comments, the Mayor closed the Public Hearing and the ballots were tallied.

    Ballot Reporting

    Tai Chau, city engineer, reported that 9750 notices were mailed greater than 45 days before the hearing representing 7505 active accounts. He said that 3,753 would be a majority.

    The clerk reported 671 protests or 8% which was not enough to refute the rate increases.

    Greg Clumpner said there were two previous rate studies his firm provided the city, but none enacted. Council Member Sobel reiterated the need to help low income residents. There was nothing discussed about commercial property reprieve.

    A roll-call vote resulted in a 5-0 approval of the rates.

    For official details of the rate study click here: Santa Paula Rate Study 2019.

    Finance Director Report

    In the Presentations section of the meeting, prior to any Public Hearings, the Finance Director presented an list of process improvements that will help customer service and reduce staff time. She also said that the Bond Financing Team was being formed, as well as hiring two accountants.

    As part of the recommendation which was approved at the November 6, 2019 meeting, the 2010 $55 million Water Revenue bond issuance will be refinanced with bonds at a lower rate. The callable amount of the 2010 offering is $43.55 million which is theoretically the amount of refinancing bonds which can be issued. Presumably the Bond Financing Team will give a detailed report on this refinancing in the near future.

    To watch the meeting, click here: Video

    For more information on the author click here: sherylhamlin dot com

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