LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 17, 2009
A Regular Meeting of the Livingston City Council was held on February 17, 2009, in the City Council Chambers with Mayor Varela presiding.
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Varela called the meeting to order at 7:00 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 Closed Session held.
CHANGES TO THE AGENDA
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
1. Presentation of Proclamation – “Portuguese Immigrant Week.” Mayor Varela presented
Robert Nolte with a Proclamation from the City Council designating March 8-11, 2009, as Portuguese Immigrant Week in the City of Livingston.
Mr. Nolte thanked the Council for proclaiming Portuguese Immigrant Week for the last 20 years.
2. Special Recognition – Monsignor Harvey Fonseca.
Mayor Varela presented Monsignor Harvey Fonseca with a plaque recognizing him for his appointment by the Pope as Monsignor of Saint Jude Catholic Church.
Monsignor Fonseca thanked the City and invited everyone to visit the church and attend church festivities.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza requested that a copy of the Portuguese Immigrant Week Proclamation be given to Monsignor Fonseca to place in the church.
3. Livingston High School Emergency Preparedness Planning – Hector Bravo.
The presentation was continued to later in the meeting to allow Mr. Bravo time to prepare for a power point presentation. The presentation was renumbered as item #8.
4. Planning Commission Appointments.
Mayor Varela announced that Martin Silva a member of the Planning Commission had resigned. He suggested that staff be directed to reopen and extend the application period and solicit additional applications. Mayor Varela said the City Council would be ready to appoint three new Planning Commissioners and one alternate at the next Council meeting.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza asked if the Planning Commission will have a quorum for their next meeting. City Manager Warne said that the next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for the second Tuesday in March. The City Council can appoint new Planning Commission members at its first meeting in March.
5. Water Rate Study Presentation by Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. and Authorization
for Public Hearing.
City Manager Warne introduced the agenda item.
Sudhir Pardiwala from Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. presented a power point presentation on the Water Rate Study.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza asked if the residents that used more water they would pay more. Sudhir Pardiwala replied that this would be the case.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza noted that when the Council makes a decision on water rates, the rate increase will be passed on to the citizens. Sudhir Pardiwala agreed and gave an explanation.
Council Member Vierra referred to page 25 of the power point presentation and asked who for example would have an 8-inch waterline and water meter. Sudhir Pardiwala said an industrial customer, possibly Foster Farms. Council Member Vierra said the middle group would be commercial customers. He asked if the City would only have an operating deficit if option 3 was chosen. Sudhir Pardiwala explained that the City will make up the deficit with all three options.
Council Member Nateras asked if the options presented were the only available options. She feels it is unfair to have the residents’ make-up the operating deficit due to the negligence of past City Councils. Sudhir Pardiwala gave an explanation.
Mayor Varela opened the item for public comment at 7:52 p.m.
Colette Alvernaz, P.O. Box 255, Livingston, said it was a bad year to increase rates and a lot of people would be affected. She suggested a five-year plan. On the industrial usage she asked how many gallons of water does Foster Farms use per month. City Manager Warne said it is hard to say because Foster Farms has only had meters at the property line since last May. Kathryn Reyes stated Foster Farms uses an estimated 150 to 180 million gallons of water per month.
Mrs. Alvernaz commented that last year a consultant did a water study and he said Foster Farms uses about 110 million gallons per month. She reiterated that the rate increase is going to hurt people and recalled that last year a five-year scenario was presented. Mayor Varela clarified that this is a five year plan.
Mrs. Alvernaz asked if there is going to be a bonding plan. She asked if three years from now people will be voting on bonds. City Manager Warne said the capital improvements plan is laid out in the presentation. The City will issue bonds in 2011 and 2013, and that they will be revenue bonds that will be covered by rates.
Mrs. Alvernaz asked if the City can delay some of the capital improvements. She also asked if the City can gradually raise rates and asked if the rate increase falls under Proposition 218. City Manager Warne replied that Proposition 218 applied to these rate increases, and said the City will be sending out notices.
Mrs. Alvernaz said if there is a steep increase and then a gradual increase, the people will be more apt to accept it. City Manager Warne gave a brief explanation on water rates and grant monies.
Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, asked how long it will take to find out if the rates will be lowered now that Foster Farms and Livingston High School are metered. City Manager Warne explained that the June reading was the first reading, so there is only seven months of history. He said that the housing authority is the only large user that isn’t metered; however, they are currently in the process of putting in meters.
Mr. Torres asked if the City can get citizens to get the information back. Is there a method where the City can compare to the water that is actually pumped out everyday?
Kathryn Reyes commented that the City has flow meters and does measure the water that is pumped out of the ground. Production totals can be compared to billing when there are meters. City Manager Warne said there are currently 195 residences that are not metered.
Mr. Torres asked how does the City know if more wells are needed. City Manager Warne said the City has sufficient wells to operate the system. He said the five-year capital improvements plan does provide for one additional well.
Mr. Torres asked where will the money come from? City Manager Warne explained that if the City needs more than one well, then the City would need to do an analysis and determine what rates would need to be charged.
Warren Urnberg, 1331 Eighth Street, said that 13 months ago the consultant hired by the City indicated the City was close to one million dollars in the hole. He said he didn’t understand why the Council could not have added on five dollars to the water bill at the time and not wait until the election and let the new people take over.
Katherine Schell Rodriguez said people are concerned about paying for the mistakes of the past and they are concerned about paying for the things coming in the future. She asked if the Council could explain what the capital improvements projects are going to be. City Manager Warne gave a brief explanation and noted that slide 34 shows what capital improvements will be built in the next 5 years.
Motion: M/S Varela/Vierra to authorize the City Manager to advertise and schedule Proposition 218 Public Hearing. The motion carried 5-0.
6. Domestic Wastewater Rate Study Presentation by Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. and Authorization for Public Hearing.
The Wastewater Rate Study was presented by Sudhir Pardiwala from Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc.
Mayor Varela opened the meeting to the public at 8:27 p.m.
Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood, stated that all of rates are a big increase for a medium income household, which is about $34,000 per year. He said that comparing wastewater rates in Modesto to Livingston was not a good comparison.
Colette Alvernaz agreed with Mr. Flores and noted that on page 16 of the power point presentation, 90% of the water delivered to City property owners goes back into the sewer system. Sudhir Pardiwala said that is the assumption for non-residential
customers. Mrs. Alvernaz asked what the City Council is doing tonight? City Attorney Subramanian said the Council is only voting to schedule a Proposition 218 public hearing. After the hearing, the City Council will vote on the rates.
Mrs. Alvernaz asked if the notice is going to be sent out in different languages? City Manager Warne said the statutory notice will be sent in English, but then a shorter version would be sent out to residents in Spanish and Punjabi. If residents need more description they can come to the City where it has people that can interpret and answer questions.
Mrs. Alvernaz said the Merced Irrigation District Board met today. She said we need to simplify the language to help people better understand. She again asked what capital improvements the City is looking at. City Manager Warne clarified that there are capital improvements included in this plan. City Manager Warne said the wastewater plant will be paid for by developers. Mrs. Alvernaz added that she is afraid that if the City spends the money today they are not going to get the fees back.
Gerri Martin, 16181 Vinewood, asked what the $500,000 debt was for? Sudhir Pardiwala gave an explanation.
Warren Urnberg recalled that a couple of years ago he brought up that the City had put $800,000 in the recreation fund for the sports complex from dirt sold from the domestic wastewater treatment plant. City Manager Warne said the City did sell a stockpile of dirt from previous construction. The sale generated about $615,000. The City Attorney and City Auditors approved the sale of the dirt. He said that 100% of that money went to recreation, none of it went to salaries.
Council Member Nateras referred to page 19 of the power point presentation and said she noticed that Madera’s rate is the lowest. She asked if anyone has checked to see what they are doing to keep their rates low and not increase them. Sudhir Pardiwala said it does help that Madera is a little larger than Livingston. He said the bigger cities tend to have lower rates because of economies of scale.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza asked if the City can still get a review of rates from some of the smaller cities for the next meeting. Sudhir Pardiwala said yes, but he has Atwater’s rates and they are similar. Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza said if possible rates should be obtained from Chowchilla, Denair, Hughson, and other cities closer to the City’s size. Mayor Varela said to try to look at the populations and then their rates.
Mayor Varela asked if the Council wanted to move forward with the Proposition 218 public hearing or have further study on rates.
Finance Director Lewis said she wanted to add that you are talking apples and oranges when rates between cities are compared. The age of the infrastructure will never be the same. The infrastructure will be completely different. It doesn’t make sense. Yes you have a number to put out there about what other cities are doing, but other cities maybe raising rates every two years and not completing needed capital improvements.
7. Solid Waste Rate Study Presentation by Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. and Authorization for Public Hearing.
The Solid Waste Rate Study was presented by Sudhir Pardiwala from Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc.
Council Member Nateras asked how the City can have a deficit when Gilton’s rates are $14.75 and the City is charging $18.00 to the residents. Sudhir Pardiwala explained. Council Member Nateras asked how can the City be in the hole. Sudhir Pardiwala explained that there are costs associated with the City that also need to be recovered. City Manager Warne explained further. Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza asked if this rate includes green waste cans. City Manager Warne replied no and gave an explanation of the City’s contract with Gilton Solid Waste Management.
Council Member Vierra noted that the cities with lower solid waste rates do not have contracts with Gilton.
Council Member Nateras understands a water rate increase is necessary, but she has a problem raising the sewer and sanitation rates at the same time. She noted that there are residents who live on fixed incomes and it is going to cause a hardship for them.
Council Member Vierra asked how is the City going to fill the gap between revenues and expenditures if all three rates are not increased.
Mayor Varela said put the charges out there and get something. We can look at everything as long as it is not over the amount.
Council Member Nateras asked if the Council could just look at increasing water rates this year and revisit sewer and sanitation rates again next year. City Manager Warne said all three rates must be increased this year.
Mayor Varela opened the meeting to the public at 9:05 p.m.
Bill Ingram said that when he was on the City Council they had hashed this over and he agrees with Council Member Nateras. He said there are citizens that have very low income. If you compare their income to the cities noted in the survey, Livingston is well below average. He said the City Council did try to go out to bid to get rid of Gilton, but the Council was stopped by the “good old boy” attitude. Mr. Ingram noted the City can save money if it went out to bid. He understands that the City Attorney was directed to find someone to do the water study, but did the City go out to bid and is the City saving money. He said that when the City goes out for comparison it should go back and find out when water, sewer and sanitation enterprise funds started taking a dump and find out why. He asked if rate increase revenues are dedicated or going to a mystery account? City Manager Warne explained the City follows national general accounting principles standards and all accounts are audited on an annual basis by an independent auditor. There are no mystery accounts or black holes in the City’s accounting system.
Colette Alvernaz commented the water is going to be raised by 200% as well as wastewater and sanitation rate increases which amount to a 355% rate increase. People cannot afford this. She said if people understand that all they need to do is send in that piece of paper saying it won’t pass. Mrs. Alvernaz said they are not against paying the increase, but this is too high. People cannot pay because the money is not there. She said they have a 90-gallon can which they use for recycling and the family can go three weeks before the can needs to be emptied. She further commented that we cannot afford it. It’s not that we don’t need it, we can’t afford it.
Donna Kenney, 6530 East Avenue, Turlock, said you have staff members that are being inundated with emails and requests to attend meetings on grants. She said that unless we get our housekeeping in order to show we can take care of our city, we are going to be eliminated from a lot of funding opportunities.
Council Member Vierra commented that the City has at least four more years before it can get rid of Gilton. City Manager Warne explained. Councilman Vierra said if the contract is for four more years, the City will be two million dollars in the hole. He asked who will pay for the deficit. The City will have to cut safety people. He said the City is cutting off its nose either way we do it. Something has to happen, but delaying is out of the question. He said the City can give up street sweeping. You can’t have lower rates and then still have all the services.
Council Member Aguilar said she agrees with a lot of people who spoke. She said the Council needs to think of family members who have lost their jobs, homes, etc. She said for the next two years the City is going to be going down not up and the Council needs to put it out there and listen to the public.
City Manager Warne noted that the City cannot provide water service for $.33 per day. He said for whatever reason the water rates have not gone up. There have been a lot of factors that have gotten the City in the financial situation is it today. He said our seniors are subsidizing those who are using the 35,000 gallons in our larger households. We have had to defer maintenance, but we have to improve the system in order for us to continue the service. Foster Farms is not impacted by the domestic wastewater rates or sanitation.
Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to authorize the City Manager to schedule a Proposition 218 Public Hearing. The motion carried 5-0.
8. Livingston High School Emergency Preparedness Planning – Hector Bravo.
Hector Bravo, Associate Principal of Livingston High School presented a power point presentation on the Livingston High School Emergency Preparedness Planning.
The Council took a short break at 9:30 p.m. and resumed the meeting at 9:38 p.m.
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS
Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.
Supervisor Pedrozo was unable to attend the meeting.
City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.
Council Member Aguilar
· Noted that she had tickets for the Livingston Community Network barbecue on April 24.
Tickets can also be purchased from Jaime Fuentes. She said that the money raised will go towards scholarships. The goal is $5,000 and the last day to fill out applications is March 20.
Council Member Nateras
· Commented that a Relay for Life meeting will be held on February 25 at 6:00 p.m.
Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.
· He also has tickets for the Livingston Community Network barbecue.
Katherine Schell Rodriguez said maybe we take a deep breathe and have a little fun and a shout out to the Friends of the Library, about 30 children in the public library. She said if you would like to rent an old school DVD you can order through the library. She said she is a substitute teacher and she lucked out having a class that makes her wish she was a kid again.
Colette Alvernaz commented that when the City Council was discussing where the General Fund monies are coming from, she is bothered about all the litigation that the City of Livingston is involved with at the present. She said all of these things cost money and some of these, if not all, could have been avoided.
Mike Torres said he would like some discussion on Item #12 on the consent calendar.
Mayor Varela requested that Item #12 be pulled for discussion.
The following items were presented for the Council’s consideration under the consent calendar:
11. Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Enter into an Agreement with URS Corporation for the Environmental Assessment of the Foster Farms Rendering Plant Project Site.
Mayor Varela declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in discussion or
voting on Item #11.
The item was presented by Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza.
Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to approve Item #11, Resolution No. 2009-5, a Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Enter into an Agreement with URS Corporation for the Environmental Assessment of the Foster Farms Rendering Plant. The motion carried 4-0 by the following vote:
AYES: Council Members: Aguilar, Espinoza, Nateras, Vierra
NOES: Council Members: None
ABSENT: Council Members: None
ABSTAIN: Council Members: Varela
12. Resolution for the Acceptance of the Proposition 13 Water Line and Alleyway Paving Improvements, Authorizing the City Clerk to Record a Notice of Completion with Merced County and Authorizing the City Manager to Release Performance and Material Bonds and to Make Final Payment of Retention Monies to Preston Pipelines, Inc.
Mayor Varela presented the agenda item.
Mike Torres stated that there are some alleys where the contractor used some of the residents’ fences as base boards. He asked who is going to pay for those fences when they need to be replaced. City Manager Warne noted the instructions to the City Engineer were to pave fence to fence, and the City is not going to pay to replace anyone’s fences. Mr. Torres said the contractor used the property fence line as a base board. He asked Mr. Warne if the City is aware that some people had to cut their gate to get their garbage can out. Mr. Warne said the City was aware that the contractor did not put down a separate base board to go down the alleys as wood would not have worked. He explained that the City Engineer had a family emergency and was not present to answer Mr. Torres’ questions. Mr. Torres said he would not have brought up the subject if he hadn’t seen the problems first hand.
Mayor Varela said he will personally go out and take a look at the work. Mr. Torres noted that if the Council approves the project tonight, the Council will have nothing to back it up if it goes out there tomorrow.
Mayor Varela commented that the problems were brought up to the former City Council and they did nothing and it is ready to move forward.
Council Member Nateras asked if the problems were ever resolved. Mr. Torres said no and noted that if the gate would not open the contractor would just cut the gate.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza asked what street did this happen on. Mr. Torres said in the alley across from the Rite-Aid Store.
City Manager Warne noted that the City Engineer has walked the alleys with Mr. Torres and has heard his concerns and for whatever reason a judgement has been made. He said he has not had any phone calls regarding any problems, so he feels the majority of the people are happy with their alleys being paved.
Mayor Pro-Tem Espinoza said he has received calls regarding the slurry seal project and about grass coming up through the cracks.
Council Member Aguilar said she is aware of some of the grass problem. She thinks that the City might not get any complaints for about a year or two. She said she would also like to look at the problem areas. Further discussion followed.
Mayor Varela recommended that the item be continued to the next meeting to allow time for staff and the Council to view the problem areas.
Motion: M/S Nateras/Aguilar to continue this item to the next regular meeting. The motion carried 5-0.
14. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on February 3, 2009.
16. Approval of Warrant Register Dated February 11, 2009.
Council Member Vierra noted corrections to the Minutes of the regular meeting of February 3, 2009, and asked that the necessary corrections be made.
Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to approve the consent agenda items with the exception of Items #11 and #12 and corrections to the Minutes of February 3, 2009. The motion carried 5-0.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
17. City Manager Announcements and Reports.
The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 10:04 p.m.
_______________________________ City Clerk of the City of Livingston
APPROVED: March 3, 2009
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.