(Note from “The Gardeningsnail”: This is a really long post. I think It’s only fair that those of you out there that “read through” to the very end get a special treat. Hope you’re a bit of a Nostalgia Buff J)
CLOSED SESSION/REGULAR MEETING
LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL
APRIL 21, 2009
A Closed Session/Regular Meeting of the Livingston City Council was held on April 21, 2009, in the City Council Chambers with Mayor Varela presiding.
Mayor Varela opened the meeting at 6:31 p.m.
Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.
Mayor Pro-Tem Rodrigo Espinoza
Council Member Frank Vierra
Council Member Margarita Aguilar
Council Member Martha Nateras
Also present were City Manager Warne, Assistant City Manager Lewis, and City Attorney Subramanian.
The City Council went into Closed Session to discuss the following matter:
1. Conference with Legal Counsel—Anticipated Litigation.
Government Code Section 54956.9(b).
Significant Exposure to Litigation (1 Case).
The City Council came out of Closed Session and into Open Session.
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Varela opened the meeting at 7:13 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.
Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.
Mayor Pro-Tem Rodrigo Espinoza
Council Member Frank Vierra
Council Member Margarita Aguilar
Council Member Martha Nateras
CLOSED SESSION ANNOUNCEMENTS
There was no reportable action.
CHANGES TO THE AGENDA
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
1. Presentation – Christie Hendricks – Week of the Young Child.
Mayor Varela presented Christie Hendricks with a Proclamation designating April 19-25, 2009, as “Week of the Young Child.” He talked about the commitment of different people and organizations that work to make the community a safe place to live.
Ms. Hendricks gave a brief presentation on the purpose of the “Week of the Young Child” and presented the City of Livingston with a certificate recognizing the City as being a child-friendly entity.
2. Special Recognition – Livingston Rotary Club.
Mayor Varela presented a Certificate of Recognition to Bob Thompson, representing the Livingston Rotary Club, for the work done at Memorial Park. The Rotary Club paid for and erected the patio cover over the barbecue food tables at the park.
Mayor Varela stated that the past City Council and Planning Commission understood the value of a project like this being done.
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS
Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.
Supervisor Pedrozo made the following reports:
· Commented on the Rotary Club presentation for the barbecue shelter and said this is where some of his discretionary monies go to.
· He felt the Week of the Child presentation was great. He said he has adopted five pre-schools, where he reads to children. He said he loves to see what they have done throughout the year.
· Stated that last week he was involved with March for Water. He stressed the serious crisis with the water situation. He said the State needs to realize that the San Joaquin Valley is in dire need of water and it should start releasing some water to the Central Valley.
· Commented that last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting had a briefing about the budget and how difficult this year was going to be for County Government. He said there is a financial reserve, but the Board of Supervisors does not want to touch the reserve. He stated that the County was under the same financial pressures that other local governments were under.
· Reported that he attended and thoroughly enjoyed the Court Theater Committee Wine and Cheese Affair last Sunday.
· He said that he will walk in the Merced Relay for Life. He said to keep him informed and that he will walk in the Livingston Relay for Life event.
· Advised all males to get their PSA test.
City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra
· Commented on the Easter Egg Hunt held on Saturday at the Livingston Sports Complex. He said the Council needs to consider doing something about ensuring dogs are on leashes during the event. He said there should be no dogs allowed on that day so that the children do not walk in dog poop.
· Reported that last Saturday 20 Key Club students and 7 adults from the Kiwanis Club and two staff members planted plants and flowers in the Dunmore Subdivision.
· He attended the Court Theater Wine and Cheese Affair which turned out well with everyone having a good time.
· Commented the he spent one afternoon delivering two boxes of food to three different families. He said “you should have seen these kids’ faces.” He noted that we need to consider doing this more, not just during the holidays.
Council Member Nateras
· Reported that a Relay for Life meeting was held on April 8 and another meeting will be held on April 22. She said they are still looking for teams. During the first week of May they will “color the town purple” to kick off the Relay for Life event.
· She thanked City Manager Warne and staff for putting together such a wonderful newsletter.
Council Member Espinoza
· Commented that he heard that the Fire Department’s bottled drinking water has been cut too. He wanted a consensus to give the Fire Department their water back. With this heat and them fighting fires and wearing those heavy suits. He felt the Fire Department could get water from the County, but he thinks the City could make an exception to their decision. He wants to see this placed on the next agenda for discussion.
Council Member Aguilar
· Commented that she was in San Diego with her son Benito. He is out in the field at Camp Pendleton. She said she needed some time with her family. She noted that during tough times family is great medicine. When she returned she was able to be a god parent to one of her nieces. Having left the party early she was able to attend Art Hop that involved a lot of youth. She said perhaps later the City could add an Art Hop to one of the street fairs held in the community.
· Reported that on May 2 there will be a firefighters fundraising pancake breakfast. The event will be held from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children which includes a tour of the Fire Department.
Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.
· Said he wanted to give a few minutes of his time to Mrs. Meyers. Mrs. Meyers
said the Court Theater wine and cheese affair was well attended and was a good social gathering for the community. She said a few people from out-of-town attended and they were pleased to see the community members mingling with each other. Mrs. Meyers thanked the City for their help with the theater marquee and the Council for their support. She said the next CourtTheater fundraiser will be a tea party on September 19. The time and location will be placed on the theater marquee.
· Mayor Varela stated that during the Week of the Young Child presentation he failed to mention how great the City’s Police Department is. He said they have Neighborhood visits where they hose the kids down and feed them.
· Commented that last week he attended a conference in Sacramento where Governor Schwarzenegger spoke about the economy. The Governor said that by summer they were going to start working on the water issues.
· Stated that on April 29 there will be a Family Focus, a town hall meeting for at risk parents. He has started a mentorship program and is now going to start working with some families. He is getting some assistance for the program from Merced County.
· Reported that a Youth Conference will be held on May 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Livingston Middle School. The event will target kids and help them understand about doing the right thing.
· Reminded everyone of the Relay for Life May 16-17, the Fire Department pancake breakfast on May 2, and the Livingston Community Network barbecue chicken dinner on April 24.
3. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of One of the Three Ordinances Relating to Establishing Rates for Water Service Fees.
Subitem A–An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Water Service Fees–Scenario 1.
Subitem B–An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Water Service Fees–Scenario 2.
Subitem C–An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Water Service Fees–Scenario 3.
City Attorney Subramanian presented the agenda item. She stated that this item was to consider potential increases in rates for water service fees. The water rates have not been raised since 1995.
The City retained Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. to complete a water rate study. Pursuant to Proposition 218, the revenues derived from the proposed service fees will not exceed the amount required to provide water services and will not exceed the proportional cost to provide service to each parcel. The proposed service fee will not be imposed on parcels unless the water service is used by or immediately available to the parcels.
She stated that the City provided notice to the affected property owners and tenants of the proposed rates increases. The notice was consistent with the requirements of Article XIII (B) of the California Constitution. The notice advised water users that the City Council would consider three options or scenarios to implement the water rate increases. The notice also advised the property owners that they may submit protests to any or all of the water rate scenarios. Only one protest will be considered for each parcel. The City Council will consider all written protests to the proposed water service rate increases. Oral protests will not be considered unless accompanied by a written protest submitted prior to the close of the public hearing.
Upon conclusion of the public hearing, the City Council may consider adopting one of the three scenarios that were outlined in the notice. If a majority of the property owners do not submit written protests, the City Council may proceed to impose any or all of the rate increases and introduce and waive first reading of one of the ordinances to increase the water service fees. This will require four affirmative votes of the City Council to pass.
The City Council may also continue the agenda item solely for City Council consideration to the May 5 meeting after they have closed the public hearing without any further public testimony.
Sudhir Pardiwala from Raftelis Financial Consultants gave his presentation. See attached power point presentation.
Mayor Varela opened the Public Hearing at 8:16 p.m.
Jim Marnatti, Director of Environmental Affairs for Foster Farms, 1333 Swan Street
He expressed concerns about the proposed water rates. He said Foster Farms is the largest water user in the City limits. He said Foster Farms did submit a letter of protest to the City. It itemizes 10 items that were a concern to Foster Farms, including the adequacy of notice, cost basis for the rate increase, the capital improvement projects, estimates of costs that the City has come up with.
He noted that Foster Farms does not contest or dispute the need for a water increase. They do believe there is a need for an increase, but it is the way we go about it that is important and the basis for the increase.
Mr. Marnatti stated that had concerns about the cost of well head treatment and generator installation. He said he was invited to sit in on a closed session with the City Council. The City had an expert, Dr. Rosenfeld come in. He estimated the cost of well-head treatment to be $500,000 per well. He said that the City competitively bid the project and it came back at $500,000. He said that the City’s cost projections are now $1.2 million per well. He said Foster Farms signed an agreement for the well head treatment on well #8. He asked why have those costs been included in the proposed capital improvements program, when Foster Farms is going to pay for that.
Mr. Marnatti said the second area of concern were the costs for the proposed backup generators. He said that the City was estimating them to cost $241,000, but that Foster Farms had installed a generator at well #11 for $37,000. He thinks the City’s capital costs are inflated. Foster Farms would like a more transparent process and understand things better, and would like to meet with the City make sure the basis are sound and move forward in a partnership. He stated he wanted to make sure things are not hidden, and move forward.
Gurpal Samra, 1034 J Street
asked to view slide 28. He asked why the total percentage increase in Scenario #1 equals 203% and not the others. He said Scenario #2 equals 174% and asked why there a difference and why the percentages are not equal. Mr. Samra also asked what does it cost the City to deliver 1,000 gallons of water to his faucet. He asked if there were no capital improvements and deficits what would the cost be. He further asked what the cost increases for each component.
Sudhir Pardiwala explained that there are different increases in different years for each scenario. The rates compound from year to year in the different rate scenarios, and so they will not be the same for each year. In reference to breakdown in the costs, he said his company hasn’t done that, but they could come up with an answer.
Siena Wald, representing Grace Nursing Home, 13435 Peach Avenue stated that she knew that the City needed to increase the rates, but if the City uses Scenario #1, it will take a long time for the facility to recoup the dollar amount from its state reimbursement system rates because of the way the state system is setup. She said in the long run Scenario #3 would be more effective and workable for them.
William Ingram, 656 F Street, said he would like to ask the City Attorney if she could clarify what a super majority vote is?
City Attorney Subramanian responded that normally you are only required to have three votes by the Council in order to take action. However, for the water rates you are required to have a super majority or four votes to increase the water rates.
Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, asked how much did the contract cost to have the consultant figure out these rates, and why there cannot be a Scenario #4. He said that his third question was if the written protests had to be presented tonight. He also asked where the super majority vote was coming from tonight.
City Attorney Subramanian informed Mr. Torres that if he wanted to provide a written protest, he needed to provide it prior to the close of the public hearing. She noted the vote is a vote of the Council.
Mr. Torres again asked for the cost of the consultant’s contract. City Manager Warne said he didn’t have the cost of the contract. He said that he thought Vickie Lewis might know the amount. Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lewis stated the cost for the two consultants is just over $100,000 through the month of March.
Mr. Torres asked which budgets were the water rate, sewer rate and garbage rate studies charged. Ms. Lewis explained that the cost for all three studies is charged to the Water Enterprise Fund, Domestic Wastewater Enterprise Fund and the Sanitation Fund. City Manager Warne noted the costs are charged back to the appropriate enterprise funds. The total consultant cost is for all three rate studies.
Ms. Lewis stated that the cost of the rate studies go back to 2005. This process has been going on several years. She said that she hoped that everyone understood that the previous City Councils have been a part of this all of these years. But that this City Council has been a part of this only for the last few months.
Warren Urnberg, 1331 Eighth Street, stated he never did get his first question answered which was: What was the cost of the first survey on water rates? He asked if the City went out to bid for this service and is it required by law to go out for bids. Mr. Urnberg commented that a lot of his friends and relatives in town are retired, and a few of them have nothing but social security as income. All of you have a job. He stated the Council needs to look at raising rates because many people may lose their homes because of the rates the City wants to charge. Mr. Urnberg further stated that there should have been something in the newspaper stating that people desiring to protest needed to have their written protest submitted this evening. He said that he did not read anything about protests.
City Attorney Subramanian stated that in regards to Mr. Urnberg’s last comment, the right to protest was clearly identified in the notice sent to property owners and rate payers.
Jaime Farias, 927 Ruby Way, said he understood that everything goes up. The cost of gas went up and then it came down and people started to ride bikes. But with this increase the people do not have any options. People are going to have to start moving in together to afford to pay their bills. Water prices are going up everywhere. Mr. Farias stated he knew that prices can be kept down just like with gasoline. He said that he owned property in Merced and he was paying $106 for water. He said maybe the City should have other companies that could compete, and maybe some other prices can come down so people can stay in their homes.
Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood, said he wanted to correct the City Attorney. The rate increase is going to take effect in July not June. He stated that he is not against the water rates going up, but he would prefer this to be a very transparent process. Mr. Flores said he doesn’t understand how the City always gets budget awards. He said that the City is an agriculture town and water is so huge for our soils and food.
Mr. Flores said the consultant mentioned that the numbers are outdated and he thought they should be updated. He also stated that this is only a four-year plan and asked what is going to happen after 2013. The City needs to see beyond the four-year plan. Mr. Flores suggested restricting watering days. He said we do not need lawns. Lawns use up more water, so we don’t need them. He said that the number of ranchettes is growing in Livingston and something needs to be done because they use a lot of water. Mr. Flores commented that the population of Livingston and Merced County is growing and this will affect water rates. He asked what is the difference between metered rates and a tiered rate system. He is in favor of having a metered system rather than a tiered water rate system.
City Manager Warne addressed the water capital improvement issues and cost. He stated that last year when the City was considering raising the water rates, Foster Farms suggested that the City had inflated the capital costs. In response to this concern, the City had Carollo Engineers go back and re-evaluate the capital costs and consult with appropriate experts. He said that these numbers in the Water Rate Study reflect this reevaluation and that the staff and engineers are comfortable with them.
City Manager Warne also commented on the purpose of the generators in the capital improvements plan in the Water Rate Study. The purpose of the generators is to have the ability to continue to provide water if there is an interruption in power due to rolling blackouts or other emergencies, especially during the summer. The City will not be able to provide water to residents from wells without generators if there is an interruption in power. The generators that are being proposed by Carollo Engineers are appropriate for the size wells that the City currently operates.
City Attorney Subramanian said that Mr. Flores is correct on the implementation date. July 1, 2009, is when the rates would take effect. She said there is a typo at the end of the staff report.
Jim Marnatti returned to the podium for a second time. He said that he would like to address the capital costs again. The Mayor allowed Jim Marnatti to again address the City Council. Mr. Marnatti said that Carollo Engineers, in a meeting between the City and Foster Farms representatives, did not support a cost for well-head treatment of $1.2 million. He said that it was $500,000. He said that there is a serious question about the numbers and basis for the rates.
City Manager Warne stated that after that particular meeting with Foster Farms, the City instructed Carollo Engineers to go back and reevaluate the capital costs of well-head treatment and proposed water system improvements to be sure that they were accurate. They have done this and the City is comfortable with the costs in the Water Rate Study.
Gurpal Samra came to the podium a second time. He said that the Mayor gave Mr. Marnatti time and he now wanted to speak a second time.
Mayor Varela stated that it is not that we do not want people to ask questions. The City is trying to be as transparent as possible. This is not an easy subject. He asked the audience to ask former Mayor Gurpal Samra why he did not raise the water rates when he was in office. He did not because it is not an easy thing to do. There is an order that we need to follow. It is not that we don’t want to hear the concerns. We know the concerns about affordability. We know that it comes down to the dollar. But this has to be done. We are listening to your comments. We know it is going to be hard. We understand that, but it has to be done, and there is an order that has to be followed and protocols that have to be followed.
Mayor Varela stated that he had granted Mr. Marnatti a second opportunity to speak. Now Mr. Gurpal Samra wants to speak a second time. He told former Mayor Samra that he was part of this whole water rate process when it first started. And to come up here and make comments. You should join us and say, “Hey let me give you some scenarios.”
He said that he would expect Gurpal Samra to give scenarios because of his experience. He again invited former Mayor Samra to give us a scenario. The City Council has had this material since last December. He said that it is difficult and he appreciated the comments and the applause.
Luis Flores asked Mayor Varela about Mr. Ingram, and why the Mayor did not call him out. Mayor Varela said because Mr. Ingram isn’t up here right now making comments. He asked the audience to ask Mr. Ingram these questions.
Mike Torres stated that he wanted to raise a point of order. He said that the Mayor was contradicting himself. He said that the Mayor should give the people at least five minutes. He said that no one can express their thoughts in three minutes. The City Council should give the people at least five minutes to speak. It is a very important thing. No one in the room can express their thoughts or concerns in three minutes. The City Council can talk as long as it wants. He said that the City Council got its job by our votes and they should allow the people to speak for five minutes.
Gurpal Samra expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak again. He said that he agreed that there needed to be rate increases. He also said he did not lecture the Mayor and thought that it was wrong for the Mayor to attack him. He said that all he has talked about is what is right and what is wrong. Former Mayor Samra agreed with Mr. Marnatti that there needs to be more transparency. If there is a meeting between the City and Foster Farms or anyone else, it should be an open meeting where every citizen can see and not in a conference room somewhere. He asked the Mayor not to attack him.
Rick Soria, 1526 Main Street, stated that everyone is going to be affected by the rate increases. There is no way around it. He said what we probably need is a scenario so the people can afford the increase. He said we also need a little bit of intervention.
Ann Lamb commented that she always has had good water. She said she has heard from many people who have had dirty, brown, smelly water. If this had ever happened to her, she would have complained a long time ago. Ms. Lamb thought it was a disgrace for any City to allow children to take baths in brown, smelly water. She has a problem with dirty water and a problem with wasting water. She said residents never used to be able to wash down their driveways, but now she sees this done all the time. She asked why the City is not enforcing the rules and contacting these people. Ms. Lamb commented that the City needed more water and asked where is the City going to talk about water quality.
City Manager Warne commented that he keeps a jar of discolored water on his desk as a reminder of how important this issue is. He agreed with the speaker that it is a disgrace that after so many years the City leaders have allowed this problem to continue without doing anything about it. He noted that staff was looking at some old minutes on another issue, and there was a comment back in1964, where someone was complaining about the dirty water. He asked what had happened over the years and commented that the answer was that nothing has been done. City Manager Warne commented that last year the City installed 18,936 feet of new waterline. It was done with grants and assistance from developer fees. He said that the capital plan outlined in the Water Rate Study provides for the second phase of the water line replacement.
City Manager Warne stated that the discolored water is created as the water moves through the system and scourers the old galvanized lines that were installed in the 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. He said the capital plan in the Water Rate Study has a little more than $2 million to do the next waterline replacement phase. Approximately one-third of the waterlines have been replaced. The water rate increase will provide the necessary funds to replace these lines.
Ms. Lamb asked if the older homes were going to get new waterlines. City Manager Warne explained that the waterline project the City did was in the older part of town. A person in the newer part of town can still have discolored water because the water moves throughout the system from the older part of town to the newer part of town. He said that the City needs to act to correct the problem, but it cannot be done at the current rate structure. She said that it was wrong that children should have to take a bath in the City water.
Mayor Varela apologized to former Mayor Samra. He stated this issue is our problem today. “You did what you could in your time. We will be responsible enough to handle the situation.”
Mayor Varela closed the Public Hearing at 9:01 p.m. as there were no further public comments.
City Manager Warne recommended that this item be continued to the May 5 meeting for City Council discussion. City Attorney Subramanian recommended that the public hearing be closed and have no additional public comment.
Council Member Aguilar stated that the City had a town meeting back on March 26 regarding the water, wastewater and solid waste rates. Some comments were brought up tonight that were brought up at that meeting. She said that she was informed that that night was an informational night. She would like to keep in mind your questions and see if there is some way the consultant would like to look at some new numbers. She said that she is not comfortable right now with some of the comments that were made. Council Member Aguilar said she is interested in the public input. These numbers are just not going to affect you, but they are going to affect her as well. She said that she wanted people to keep in mind that she is interested in their questions.
Council Member Nateras stated that she has heard the concerns of the public. She said that she lived in this community and has family here. It is a shame that this problem is still here. She stated that we inherited this problem from previous City Councils. I have met with the City Manager asked him if we have other options. She did not know what to say under the circumstances. She said that she wanted to extend the written notice period. She asked the City Attorney if this could be done.
City Attorney Subramanian stated she would not recommend this. She noted that in the notice it was stated very clearly that you needed to provide written notice prior to the end of the public hearing. We have received written protests.
Council Member Nateras asked if the notices were sent out in three different languages.
City Attorney Subramanian noted the notice was sent out in English only as required by Proposition 218. Council Member Nateras asked how can we expect them to come to this meeting and voice their opinion, much less write a statement.
Council Member Espinoza commented that he did not know that the City’s costs for rate consultants is over $100,000 for the three rate studies. He said he understood that the second consultants were going to try to revise it to make it clearer, and he thought it was going to be totally different. Council Member Espinoza said he would like to see a fourth scenario because the proposed rates are “pretty harsh.” He commented that the first consultant had a flat rate for 35,000 gallons, and now the City is proposing tiered rates starting at 6,000 gallons. He felt the rate scenarios were “pretty harsh” in light of the current economy. He said the wanted a fourth scenario.
Council Member Espinoza recommended that the public hearing be continued to give citizens more time to comment.
City Manager Warne stated that this is very painful. The reason why it is so painful is because it has been so long. There has been procrastination for whatever reason and I am not being critical of the people that sat here. It has been since 1995 since the rates were adjusted. The longer the City Council waits, the worse the problem gets. The problem is worse this year than it was last year. It was worse last year then the year before. The City’s independent auditor has stood up in a public meeting in front of the City Council and told the City Council that they need to raise the rates. Your rate consultant has gone over the City finances and has stood up in front of City Council and told them they need to raise the rates. The staff has told the City Council they need to raise the rates. As difficult as it is we need to move forward with the water rate increase.
In a couple years if things get better or we get a grant, the City Council can always adjust the rates. But we absolutely need to move forward with one of the scenarios. He said that he is not saying that the City Council needs to do it tonight, but it needs to be done. City Manager Warne stated that he knew that it was going to be difficult. The longer the City Council waits, the harder it is going to be to raise the rates, and the harder it is to make the decision. We are here today because there has been no rate increase since 1995.
City Manager Warne urged the City Council to act so that they are not presiding over the depletion of the City’s cash reserves. He said that the City Council can always reevaluate the Water Enterprise Fund in a year. Anyone of the rate scenarios is going to work. He said that he did not like raising the rates and it certainly was not going to make him a popular City Manager. The City Council needs to act, and continuing to delay the decision (and not act) is not in the best interest of the City. The City will continue to have a situation where it will deplete its cash reserves. He again urged the City Council to act and pick one of the three scenarios. He said that he was tired of paying consultants and attorneys. If the City is going to do another report or scenario, it just means more costs to consultants and the attorney. We as staff are telling you, you need to act and not preside over the gradual weakening of the City’s financial position.
City Manager Warne stated that it was his recommendation to continue this matter to the next City Council meeting. He said that he hoped that each member of the City Council will see it within themselves to make a very difficult decision, that all of them who ran for office knew would be on the agenda and a difficult decision to make. It was no secret that the City Council would have to deal with this issue. He urged them to do what they had been elected to do—to protect and take care of the citizens of the community, as painful as it is.
Council Member Aguilar said it was mentioned that the citizens only had a certain timeframe to bring in protests in accordance with Proposition 18. She asked if the City Council could extend the time period for submitting protests.
City Attorney Subramanian commented that the City Council could continue the public hearing to the next meeting, and that will allow more time for those who want to present written notices. Council Member Aguilar asked if the Council could vote to keep the public hearing open. City Attorney Subramanian said the Council could vote to continue the public hearing and that will allow people to submit their protests at the next meeting.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra asked if the City Council is going to continue the public hearing, will citizens be allowed to submit oral and written protests. He said this needs to be clear because he doesn’t want people yelling at us. City Attorney Subramanian replied that at this point it would be both written and oral responses.
Council Member Aguilar made a motion to continue the public hearing to the next City Council meeting.
Council Member Espinoza asked if staff could put an ad in the newspaper informing residents to submit letters to the City regarding their concerns. City Manager Warne said staff will direct the City Attorney to draft the appropriate notice.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra stated that the City Council needs to look and see what is happening in Oakdale, a neighboring city. Oakdale is a very affluent community. They are considering laying off police officers, firemen, and other staff as well as fencing their parks. He said that Livingston cannot keep taking money from the General Fund. It has been doing this for fifteen years. There has not been a Livingston City Council yet who voted to do what this Council has to do. He said that we have to take a look at this issue. So if the City Council does not raise the water or garbage rates, or we make it so low and we keep taking from the General Fund, we are going to have to start looking at cutting something somewhere. Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra said that it is only going to come out of those three areas. We are going to have to deal with this financial problem sometime. Which one is going to be cut if the City is looking at only cutting fire, police and recreation. The City has positions that have not been filled for at least two or three years. As people have left or retired, the City has not filled these positions. He said he is putting it out there and that it is not just water, sewer and garbage.
Council Member Nateras stated there are a lot of members of the community who have lost their jobs and their homes and now the City is increasing the water rates. The water rates will increase. The City Council needs to figure out how much.
The Mayor stated that there was a motion on the floor. Council Member Nateras seconded the previous motion made by Council Member Aguilar to continue the public hearing to the next meeting. The motion failed to carry by a vote of 3-2. Mayor Varela, Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra and Council Member Espinoza voted no.
Council Member Espinoza made a motion to add a fourth scenario. The motion failed due to lack of a second motion. City Attorney Subramanian stated that a fourth scenario would require a new rate study and this would cost time and money.
Mayor Varela said adding a fourth scenario was not an option unless the Council went through the entire process again. He said that the City Council will need to vote on this issue. The City Attorney outlined the options for the motion.
Council Member Aguilar made a motion to continue the public hearing to the May 5, 2009, City Council meeting and place a notice for the meeting in the newspaper in three languages. The motion was seconded by Council Member Nateras. It carried by a vote of 5-0.
Ana Galvan, 2320 Johannisburg Drive, asked why the notice could not be in Spanish because she doesn’t speak English. Council Member Nateras served as an interpreter for Ms. Galvan. She said Ms. Galvan receives $700 a month. And after paying for her medicines and other bills, she has only $20 left for her personal needs. Council Member Nateras said she explained to Ms. Galvan that the Council extended the period for submitting a letter of protest to the May 5 meeting. Council Member Nateras said that Ms. Galvan noted that she spoke to all the City Council candidates that went to her house during the campaign for the November election. Ana Galvan remarks were translated by members of the City Council.
4. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of One of the Three Ordinances Relating to Establishing Rates for Domestic Wastewater Service Fees.
Subitem A–Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Domestic Wastewater Service Fees–Scenario 1.
Subitem B–Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Domestic Wastewater Service Fees–Scenario 2.
Subitem C–Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Domestic Wastewater Service Fees–Scenario 3.
City Attorney Subramanian presented the agenda item. She said that the domestic wastewater fees had not been increased in Livingston since 2002. The City retained Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. to prepare a domestic wastewater rate study. In accordance with Proposition 218, the revenues collected will not exceed the cost of providing domestic wastewater service which shall be used exclusively for wastewater treatment. The amount of the fees will not exceed the proportional cost of providing wastewater service to each parcel. The proposed service fee will not be imposed on a parcel that does not receive domestic wastewater service or where service is not immediately available.
The City provided notice to affected property owners in accordance with Proposition 218 and Article XIII (B) of the California Constitution. The notice stated that the City Council would consider three options or scenarios to implement the proposed wastewater rate increases. Sudhir Pardiwala will discuss the scenarios in detail. The notice also advised property owners and tenants that they could submit written protest to any or all of the scenarios for increase, provided only one protest will be considered for each parcel. At the public hearing the City Council will listen and consider all oral and written protests. However, oral comments will not qualify as a formal protest unless accompanied by a written protest. Upon conclusion of the public hearing, the City Council may impose any or all the rate increases if a majority of property owners do not submit formal protests.
If adopted the rate will become effective on July 1, 2009. This will require a super majority or the vote of four members of the City Council to approve the rate increase. The City Council can introduce and waive first reading of an ordinance to increase the domestic wastewater fees, continue the item until the next City Council meeting with no further comment, or it can continue the public hearing until the May 5, 2009, City Council meeting and notice it in the newspaper.
Sudhir Pardiwala from Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. gave a power point presentation on the proposed domestic wastewater service fee increase. See attached power point presentation. He stated that if the City gets grant funding or costs are lower, the City Council can lower the rates. The capital costs have been confirmed by the City’s engineers.
Mayor Varela opened the Public Hearing at 9:43 p.m.
Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood, stated that he was more passionate about water because there is so much more about water that he loved. There are things the City can do to be innovative in wastewater. For example, we could take a European model of the toilet. These toilets have two options–a full water release and then there is a half one. He said that he did not know if this would apply to Livingston, but thought it was innovative. He said that he was not against raising the rates, but wanted a more transparent process.
Mayor Varela closed the Public Hearing at 9:45 p.m. as there were no further public comments. Council Member Nateras asked if this is just like the water rate increase in that the City Council can revisit the rate issue again and lower it in the future if appropriate. Sudhir Pardiwala said that in his opinion the Council could lower the rates if they had to or wanted to in the future.
Council Member Aguilar made a motion to continue the public hearing to the next meeting of May 5, 2009, and place a notice in the newspaper in three languages. City Attorney Subramanian asked if Council Member Aguilar was requesting the same noticing as for the water rate increase. Council Member Aguilar stated that she was.
Community Development Director Kenney called the Council’s attention to the previous explanation by City Manager Warne that the City is not filling employment staff vacancies and the City is short of staff. She said it takes a lot of staff time and energy to translate these notices into Spanish and Punjabi and by doing the water public notice already the Council is probably going to tie up staff interpreter’s time for the rest of the week. She said if we do this for all three items, the Council is going to tie up staff’s time for probably the next two weeks.
Council Member Aguilar’s motion was seconded by Council Member Espinoza and failed to carry by a vote of 2-3, with Mayor Varela, Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra and Council Member Nateras voting no on the portion of the motion to place a notice in the newspaper in three languages.
City Manager Warne said he asked the City Attorney that, if the required four votes were not received, would the City have to re-notice the public hearing and go through the whole Proposition 218 process again, and spend all the money in the process? City Attorney Subramanian responded to him that the City would have to start all over again. Since this is the case, he recommended that the City Council not vote on the rate increase tonight, and continue the public hearing to the next City Council meeting. City Manager Warne noted that the next agenda item relating to solid waste rates could be done by resolution by three votes.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra asked if he could make a motion so the Council could continue the public hearing to the next meeting, but not do all those newspaper notices and go through the expense. City Manager Warne said the Council could eliminate the requirement for the newspaper notice because the people are going to come anyway to the meeting because of the water rate public hearing.
City Attorney Subramanian said the Mayor Pro-Tem could make a motion to continue the public hearing to the next meeting and not provide the notice for the newspaper. She reviewed the options for the City Council.
Mayor Varela moved to continue to the next meeting with no newspaper notices, but keep the public hearing open. The motion was seconded by Council Member Nateras and carried 5-0.
5. Adopt One of Three Resolutions Relating to Establishing Rates for Solid Waste Service Fees.
Subitem A–Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Solid Waste Service Fees–Scenario 1.
Subitem B–Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Solid Waste Service Fees–Scenario 2.
Subitem C–Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Rates for Solid Waste Service Fees–Scenario 3.
City Attorney Subramanian presented the agenda item. She stated that this item was to consider potential increase in rates for solid waste service fees. The solid waste rates have not been raised since 2003. The City retained Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. to complete a solid waste rate study. Pursuant to Proposition 218, the revenues derived from the proposed service fees will not exceed the amount required to provide solid waste services and will not exceed the proportional cost to provide service to each parcel. The proposed service fee will not be imposed on parcels unless the solid waste service is used by or immediately available to the parcels.
She stated that the City provided notice to the affected property owners and tenants of the proposed rate increases. The notice was consistent with the requirements of Article XIII (B) of the California Constitution. The notice advised solid waste users that the City Council would consider three options or scenarios to implement the solid waste rate increase. The notice also advised the property owners that they may submit protests to any or all of the solid waste rate scenarios. Only one protest will be considered for each parcel. The City Council will consider all written protests to the proposed solid waste service rate increases. Oral protests will not be considered unless accompanied by a written protest submitted prior to the close of the public hearing. Upon conclusion of the public hearing, the City Council may consider adopting one of the three scenarios that were outlined in the notice.
If a majority of the property owners do not submit written protests, the City Council may proceed to impose any or all of the rate increases and approve one of the resolutions to increase the solid waste service fees. This will require three affirmative votes of the City Council to pass the rate increase. If a resolution is passed, the rate increase will begin June 1, 2009. The City Council may also continue the agenda item solely for City Council consideration to the May 5 meeting after they have closed the public hearing without any further public testimony.
Sudhir Pardiwala from Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. gave his presentation on the proposed solid waste rate increase. See attached power point presentation.
Mayor Varela opened the Public Hearing at 10:00 p.m.
Marge McFadden, 1423 First Street, asked when Gilton Solid Waste Management’s contract with the City expires. City Manager Warne replied in the year 2012. Ms. McFadden stated, so if the City went out to bid to someone else that would affect this rate. She said she has never heard of anyone having an eight-year contract.
Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood , commented that in the spring of 2007 he went on a tour of the Gilton facilities along with Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra. Gilton had some great ideas including recyclable containers and smaller containers that would ease the cost. He thinks it is a good idea to have a smaller container. It is changing the culture of how we look at waste. A small solid waste can will help change the culture of solid waste.
Mayor Varela closed the Public Hearing at 10:03 p.m., as there were no further public comments.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra told the Council that they were going to see in their warrants a charge for $17,200.21 for street sweeping dumping and green waste dumping. He said the questions had been raised previously about the difference between the $14 Gilton charges and the $18 the City charges its residents. He said it’s these kinds of figures that are added on top of what Gilton already charges the City. This has nothing to do with Gilton’s normal monthly contract charge of $40,000.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra stated the rate for scenario #1 is $28.83 across the board. If one looks at the other scenarios, there are substantial rate increases over time with scenario #2 and scenario #3. Scenario #1 has a one-time increase to $28.83, and then it is not adjusted for five years. He said that it is something to consider.
Council Member Espinoza said he wished the City had gone to a green waste can because he thinks a green waste can is needed in the community.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra said that he had toured the Gilton facility with Mr. Flores. He heard that the Merced County landfill still charges for the same full truck even if all the paper and other recycled materials are removed. We still have to haul full truck loads back to the dump, even if the recyclable materials are removed by Gilton at their facility. He said that this does not make sense because the landfill in Merced is still being filled up. In reference to the green waste can, some people do not want a smaller can or a green waste can. He said that he is not against it, but he thought the community might be against it.
Mayor Varela commented that he has talked to many members of the public and he thinks the public would like to go to a three-can system. He said the City has talked to another competitor who would supply three cans, but the City is stuck with Gilton for three more years.
City Manager Warne recommended that this item be continued to the next meeting.
Council Member Aguilar made a motion to continue the public hearing to the next meeting on May 5, 2009, with no notice of the public hearing in three languages. The motion was seconded by Council Member Espinoza. The motion failed to carry by a vote of 3-2, with Mayor Varela, Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra and Council Member Nateras voting no.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra made a motion to approve the resolution that selected scenario #1. The motion failed due to the lack of a second.
Council Member Nateras made a motion to adopt Resolution No. 2009-16, approving scenario #3. The motion was seconded by Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra and carried 4-1, with Council Member Espinoza voting no.
Council Member Nateras stated it hurt her to have to approve the rate increase. She said she was not expecting this, but when she ran for office, she knew she was running into a water rate problem, but not this.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra stated that he voted for the rate increase because the City would have accumulated a $2.5 million deficit after five years if nothing was done.
Jonah Lamb from the Merced Sun-Star asked how many protests were received. City Attorney Subramanian stated that the City had received 22 protests on the proposed water rate increase and 13 protests on the wastewater and solid waste rates. He asked how many utility users there were. City Manager Warne said that there were approximately 3,000.
Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood, asked for the status of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. He also commented that the City Council liaison is not attending the Planning Commission meetings. He also said that there is a feeling that non-English speaking-residents are not welcome at City Council meetings. He said he was surprised that the video taping of City Council meetings was approved. Mr. Flores said he feels the citizen comment portion of the meeting should be more accommodating to multi-lingual speakers.
Mayor Varela commented that Council Member Nateras is the liaison to the Planning Commission, but unfortunately she had a death in the family. He had told her not to worry about attending the meeting. He said he did not attend the meeting because he did not want to overshadow the Planning Commission as the Mayor. He said that they need to do their business and they had a successful meeting.
Council Member Nateras said that the only Planning Commission meeting that she had missed was the one where there was a death in the family. Community Development Director Donna Kenney could verify that. Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra said he knew Council Member Nateras would be out of town and he would have attended but he thought another person was attending. He said that he did not attend to avoid a Brown Act violation.
Council Member Aguilar stated that she is available to attend Planning Commission meetings if Council Member Nateras could not attend. She said that she had discontinued her representation on the Court Theater Committee as the City Council liaison.
Regarding the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Council Member Nateras said that she has not heard anything although she has checked with City staff. Mayor Varela asked if Mr. Flores was interested in serving. City Manager Warne said he did not have the information, but that there were very few applications. Mayor Varela encouraged Mr. Flores to apply.
City Manager Warne presented the following consent calendar items for Council consideration:
6. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on March 26, 2009.
7. Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 16, 2009.
Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra made the motion to approve the consent calendar as presented. Council Member Nateras seconded the motion. The motion carried 5-0.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
8. City Manager Announcements and Reports.
Mayor Varela suggested the May 5 City Council meeting begin at 6:00 p.m.
ADJOURNMENT (Note from “The Gardeningsnail”: You are almost there! Keep going!)
The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 10:31 p.m.
City Clerk of the City of Livingston
Mayor or Mayor ProTempore
The written meeting minutes reflect a summary of specific actions taken by the City Council. They do not necessarily reflect all of the comments or dialogue leading up to the action. All meetings are digitally recorded and are an official record of the meeting’s proceedings. Digitally recorded verbatim minutes are available, upon request, and may be obtained at Livingston City Hall.
(Congratulations! You are now at the end of the post! Wow!
Seems like this battle over Water Rates has evolved into a sad kind of “Never Ending Story” with a life of its own. Personally, I’m in the mood for a bit of “Never Ending Story” of the Nostalgic Kind. Hope you enjoy it.) J