Ventura City Council votes for water restrictions and fines

By Debra Tash

Following the lead of other cities in the State,  Ventura’s Council voted unanimously to enact staff’s recommendations for restricting water use in the city.  Residents were asked to voluntarily cut usage by 10% in February of this year.    In July the State passed mandatory water reductions.

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From Staff’s Power Point presentation to the city council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By August 1st  the City had hired three part time people to help with policing usage and implementing restrictions.  Ventura has been making use of social media for outreach on water wise usage as well as getting information to the public by radio and inserts in residents’ utility bills.  The council also established a task force to deal with the drought emergency.

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The city is now at a Stage 3 alert, calling for a mandatory 20% reduction of water usage, with landscaping irrigation confined to two days a week between 6pm and 9am, along with a list of other restrictions.

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The majority of the public comments were advocating a moratorium on growth.  The city currently has 439 residential units in the plan check/building permit process.  Council was advised that these can possibly be put on hold, but they cannot stop those who have been issued permits from building.

Camille Harris, Community activst

Camille Harris, Community activist

Local community activist, Camille Harris also spoke at the meeting.  “We pull together wherever we can, ” she said, siting that citizens have already significantly reduced water usage on their own.  She would like to see the $207,000 proposed for enforcement and outreach to be put back into the community.  That of that $122,000 will be used just for enforcement.

Councilmember Carl Morehouse commented on the idea that the city will be relying on neighbors reporting wasteful water use.  “Sounds like the old Soviet Union when someone rats someone out.”

Councilmembers were concerned that the cost of enforcement would impact ratepayers.  Staff clarified that the funds would be coming out of the existing budget.

Neal Andrews found the fines troubling and wanted a cap on them.  Since the Council would need six of the seven members to vote yes on the Emergency Ordinance, Andrews’ amendment was added and the fines are limited to no more than $500.  The Ordinance passed unanimously.

Staff was also directed to do research on a building moratorium.  Councilmember Christy Weir, who is still recovering from a bout of ill health. had to leave the meeting and rejoin it by telephone.  She said about researching the moratorium that they need, “Legal and practical information on the pros and cons. We don’t have enough information.”

The vote on directing staff to research a building moratorium also passed unanimously.

The Council will hear staff’s report at their last meeting in October.

To review Staff’s report and recommendations: http://www.cityofventura.net/files/file/meetings/city_council/2014/09-22-14/item%2003.pdf

Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

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