MAY 5, 2009

 

CLOSED SESSION/REGULAR MEETING

LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL

MAY 5, 2009

 

 

A Closed Session/Regular Meeting of the Livingston City Council was held on May 5, 2009, in the City Council Chambers with Mayor Varela presiding.

 

CLOSED SESSION

 

Mayor Varela opened the meeting at 6:00 p.m.

 

ROLL CALL

 

   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/Finance Director Lewis, and City Attorney Subramanian.

 

The 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 (2 Cases).

 

OPEN SESSION

 

The Council came out of Closed Session and into Open Session.

 

REGULAR MEETING

 

CALL TO ORDER

 

Mayor Varela called the meeting to order at 6:12 p.m.

 

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

 

The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.

 

ROLL CALL

 

   Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.                      

   Mayor Pro-Tem Rodrigo Espinoza

   Council Member Frank Vierra

   Council Member Margarita Aguilar

   Council Member Martha Nateras

 

CLOSED SESSION ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra stated that there were no reportable actions.

 

CHANGES TO THE AGENDA

 

Council Member Espinoza made a motion to move Citizens Comments to the front of the agenda and that items 3 and 4 on the consent calendar to be pulled for discussion.  The motion was seconded by Council Member Aguilar and carried 5-0.

 

AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

 

None.

 

MEMORIUM

 

Mayor Varela recognized the passing of Eva Granado, a long-time Livingston resident.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

 

     Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

 

Administrative Assistant, Juan Corona, reported that Supervisor Pedrozo had two meetings with Amtrak, including one with the Amtrak CEO.  Amtrak is going to be receiving federal funding to keep their costs and fares low.  Mr. Corona reminded the audience that Supervisor Pedrozo has pamphlets and cards in his office for the Operation Life Saver Program.  Anyone needing further information should call Supervisor Pedrozo.

 

 

 

     City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

 

     Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra

 

·        He attended a Lions Club health fair the weekend before last.

 

·        Reported the Key Club has started a program called Adopting a Grandparent.  The Key Club also went and looked at the Rotary Frisbee Golf project.  He also said that last weekend 14 Livingston High School Key Club members and 17 Key Club kids from Palo Alto met in an exchange program.  The group went out to see the Magnison’s ranch and then to the county food bank.  The group then went to UC Merced where they toured the campus.  Later in the day the Key Club members visited another farm that had an organic orchard and where calves are raised.  He noted that on Friday night the Key Club had planned to camp out, but the rain came, so they had to stay in the Magnison’s ranch recreation room.  The students had a great weekend and he hoped that there could be more joint activities.

 

     Council Member Nateras

 

·        Stated that a Relay for Life planning meeting was held at the Police Department.  She also attended the Relay-for-Life events in both Turlock and Merced.  She said this is a great event and she is excited about the Livingston Relay for Life event.  There are 22 committed teams and she hopes they will meet their fund raising goal.  It is not too late to register a team, and anyone desiring to do so should contact her.

 

     Council Member Espinoza

 

·        Commented that there is a mosquito problem in town.  A family living near Dwight Way and Walnut Avenuenear the drainage pond is having mosquito problems.  He said he has not seen the Mosquito Abatement District truck driving around town.  He said that Marge McFadden is Livingston’s representative on the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District Board.  Council Member Espinoza asked that the City request the Mosquito Abatement District to spray in Livingston.

 

     Council Member Aguilar

 

·        Reported that this past Saturday the Fire Department held a fundraising pancake breakfast that had a great turn out.  She thanked all of those who worked so hard to make the breakfast happen and to the citizens who helped with the hash browns.

 

·        Commented that the Livingston Community Network held a fundraising barbecue and they hoped they raised the $7,500 for scholarships.  She will report the amount raised at the next Council meeting.  She thanked those who purchased tickets.

 

·        Reported that last we held our first garden committee meeting and she was disappointed that there were only three people there.

 

·        Recalled that recently the City Council approved 12 acres of land for a community garden.  She said if anyone is interested she will pass their name along to Pastor Ruth.

 

·        Noted that tomorrow is the viewing for Eva Granado.  Her funeral services will be held on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. at the church located on D Street.  She said Mrs. Granado was a great family friend and a good neighbor.

 

     Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

 

     Mayor Varela

 

·        Attend the Livingston Key Club and Palo Alto Key Club exchange.  He said it was a very interesting organization.  He supports what they are doing and thanked Mayor Pro Tem Member Vierra for his involvement.

 

·        Reported that Thursday will be celebrated as the National Day of Prayer.  He said there will be a prayer ceremony at 12:00 noon at the museum flag pole and a prayer meeting at the United Methodist Church at 7:00 p.m.

 

·        Reported that on Saturday there will be a youth conference organized by the Mayor for young boys in the community entitled, “Do the Right Thing.”  There will be a bike and car show at 10:00 a.m.  Mayor Varela stated that if you want to hear a positive message, please come out.

 

PUBLIC COMMENTS

 

Kaye Greeley, 1571 Monte Cristo Way, reported she had recently been a recipient of the benefits of the Key Club Adopt a Grandparent Program. She noted that she just had surgery so was not able to do a lot of lifting.  Three students came to assist her and another resident of Monte Cristo.  Ms. Greely noted that the kids were great and the community should be very proud of them.

 

Rosa Gomez, 2321 Burgundy Drive, presented some photos of a baseball field at the Livingston Sports Complex.  She said that her baseball team was to have practice on her regularly scheduled field, but were moved due to the rain to another location.  Ms. Gomez said that the field was in poor condition and there were large rocks and dirt clods on the field, posing danger to the children who play there.  Ms. Gomez asked the City Council for a solution to the condition of the fields.  Ms. Gomez stated that she feels the reduced number of teams and sponsors this year is due to the quality of facilities and programs.  She also asked why the Parks and Recreation Commission was not meeting.

 

Council Member Espinoza noted that he knew there was supposed to be a Parks Recreation Committee meeting last week, but it was not held.  He said that there are a few openings. He suggested that these issues could come before the Parks Recreation Commission for discussion.

 

City Manager Warne stated that the terms of all of the Parks and Recreation Commission members have expired.  The City has advertised for applicants as well as asked previous members if they were interested in reapplying.  To date, there have been no applications received and no interest expressed by anyone to serve on the Commission.  The Parks and Recreation Commission has not been reconstituted by the City Council since the election.

 

Mayor Varela stated that his personal contact information was on the cable access channel in the event anyone would like to discuss issues or concerns.  Mr. Varela urged the public to come to him or staff prior to City Council meetings if they had issues they wished addressed.

Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, reported the crosswalk on Livingston-Cressey and Swan was never replaced after the recent roadwork.  City Manager Warne stated that the City Engineer is present tonight and can answer Mr. Torres’ questions about the crosswalk.  He suggested that the two of them step outside and discuss the matter.

 

Mr. Torres also asked about a conditional use permit regarding tow truck parking in a residential area.  He noted a location in the City where there were designated parking signs for tow trucks in residential area.  He asked how the signs got there and who authorized them.   Council Member Espinoza stated that Police Chief Eldridge authorized the signs after the City Council had authorized them through the normal channels.  City Manager Richard Warne stated that the signs are properly placed in accordance with the ordinance.  Mayor Varela stated that this issue had been settled and that if Mr. Torres had any questions, he could meet with the Police Chief.

 

Warren Urnberg 1331 Eighth Street asked why the City Council meeting was scheduled an hour earlier.  Mayor Varela noted that the last meeting did not adjourn until 10:30 p.m., and because it was anticipated this meeting would be as lengthy, it was decided to hold the meeting one hour earlier than usual.

 

Mr. Urnberg expressed a concern about the format of the agenda as it seemed to him that the citizens’ comments section gets moved around.  Mr. Urnberg also asked about the League of California Cities conference to San Diego that several of the City Council members will attend later this month.  Mr. Urnberg stated that he had heard that the City Council members that were attending were going to fly.  Mr. Urnberg was concerned about the cost of flying, and renting a vehicle.  He feels that the City Council should drive down to San Diego in a City vehicle.

 

Mayor Varela addressed Mr. Urnberg’s concerns, but also noted that sometimes questions are geared to embarrass members of the City’s leadership.  Mr. Varela stated that the cost to fly is less than driving and he is prepared to show Mr. Urnberg the figures.  Mr. Varela invited Mr. Urnberg to City Hall to review the information personally.

 

PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

1.     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.

 

Mayor Varela stated that this item was a continuation of the public hearing from the previous meeting.  The Mayor opened the public hearing.  He said that staff would make a statement. 

 

City Manager Warne introduced the agenda item.  He stated that from time to time unpopular and very difficult decisions need to be made by the governing body.  The people have elected these representatives to carefully guide them with these very complex and unpopular issues and render a decision.  He said the City is faced with a need to adjust the water and sewer rates.  He said the last time there was a water adjustment was in 1995; and the City cannot provide water service for the same price as it did in 1995, just as other businesses in the area cannot provide their businesses services for the same price as in 1995. 

 

City Manager Warne commented that the City’s independent auditors and financial consultants have appeared previously before the City Council, and the staff has been up front and direct with the City Council and the public.  He stated that the City Council must move forward and make an adjustment to the water rates, as unpopular and distasteful as it is.  The problem only gets worse as the City Council continues to procrastinate.  The City cannot continue to pay consultants, attorneys and engineers while the City Council fails to make decisions and move forward.

 

City Manager Warne encouraged the City Council to do something tonight that is pretty difficult, and probably against the desires of most of the people here tonight, but it is for the benefit of the people in the community.  He said the simple policy decision is this:  Do you wish to have the General Fund subsidize the water service to the residents of Livingston? Or do you wish the Water Enterprise Fund to be self- sustaining?   He told the City Council that if the answer to this policy question is that they wish the General Fund to subsidize the Water Enterprise Fund, it is not possible to do so and cannot be done.  In order for the General Fund to subsidize the Water Enterprise Fund, the City would have to move forward and make adjustments and cuts in General Fund services that the City provides such as fire and police.

 

City Manager Warne stated the City has amassed an operating deficit in its water fund. There was a water rate study completed and it projects a deficit of $1,150,000, on June 30, 2009.  He said the City must cover its current operating cost, which it does not.  It must address critical operation problems with the water system.  He showed a bottle of discolored water and stated that in the past this problem has been ignored.  It comes from the water scouring old waterlines as it moves through the system.  The City still has a substantial number of water lines that need to be replaced.  He stated that year after year and decade after decade, this problem continues, and it is unconscionable that the problem persists.  The problem existed in 1964 and someone came to a City Council meeting and complained.  Nothing was done.  The City Council must move forward and do critical capital projects to solve problems like this. 

 

City Manager Warne stated that the water rate study does three things.  It addresses the accumulated operating deficit, provides funds for current operating costs and addresses critical capital improvements.  It is also provides a rate structure that is more fair.  Under the current flat-rate structure, a person on social security or fixed income using a minimum amount of water pays the same price as a large family or a large number of people living in the house or in a multi-generational household.  A person pays the same $9.90 whether they use 1,000 gallons a month or 35,000 gallons a month.  The new rate structure is tiered so that those that use less pay less.

 

The City has complied with all the requirements of Proposition 218.  The City has completed a rate study, and has sent out the required public notices to residents.  The City Council has conducted four public meetings regarding the water rates.  The consultant has been here to answer any questions the citizens have had.  The City Council needs to act after listening to the public.

 

City Manager Warne said it is staff’s recommendation that the City Council select one of the three scenarios; and then before the first step increase in a multi-year scenario, the City Council carefully review the rates to determine if an adjustment is necessary or appropriate.  He said to simply do nothing while the Water Enterprise Fund continues to lose money is the prescription for a financial crisis that is brewing.  We must take action now so that we are not in the same situation as many of our neighboring cities that have financial cost structures that are not sustainable by revenues.

 

City Manager Warne noted the City Council has a couple of options.  It could run out of money; or cut police, fire and other things from the General Fund; or the City Council can move forward boldly even though it is unpopular.  He said if the City is fortunate to get grants, rates can be adjusted downward; but if not, the City can still move forward.  The Proposition 218 process requires that customers pay their proportionate share based on an objective rate study.  Rates cannot be set for classes of customers based upon politics or who your business might be in town.  It must be based upon an objective rate study—which we have had done by Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc.

 

City Manager Warne commented that the rate study has been available for everyone to review for several months.  It has been on the City’s web site and has been available at City Hall.  There are three rate scenarios.  He said he does not favor spending any more money on consultants.  He said it is time for the City Council members to put aside their political differences and personal animosities that they have for each other, and move forward.   City Manager Warne noted that the City Council does not need any more information.  They simply need to act on the information that they have.  He stated that it is not going to be easy.  It will be difficult for everyone, but the realities are that the costs are rising.

 

City Manager Warne said newspaper articles show that other cities are adjusting and raising their rates.  In the past Livingston has lost grant monies, simply because grant reviewers have taken one look at the water rates and have concluded that they are artificially low in comparison with other communities.  A good example of this is the Proposition 13 water grant the City received.  The City would have received more grant money if it had rates more consistent with other communities.

 

City Manager Warne stated that the City staff cannot not finish the budget until the City Council makes a decision on water and sewer rates.  He said if the rates are not adjusted there is going to have to be adjustments and cuts to police and fire services as well as other General Fund items.  He said that this is a reality.  He is not trying to blackmail or to scare anyone.

 

City Manager Warne commented on an e-mail that he has received, talking about a decision by the Governor to take local government funds if the propositions on the ballot do not pass.  This alone should encourage us to adopt the new water rates. 

 

  City Manager Warne said he wanted some issues addressed that came up at the last meeting.  Specifically, it was suggested by Foster Farms that the City had inflated its capital costs in its capital improvement plan.  He said that representatives from Carollo Engineers were present and he wanted them to step forward, along with the City Engineer, and address the costs of the well head treatment, generator installation and water line replacements.

 

Jose Gutierrez, Carollo Engineers, stated that they helped the City prepare the Water Distribution System Master Plan.  He said that the Water Distribution System Master Plan outlines capital projects to ensure that the City has adequate supply, storage and pressure.  He said one of the capital improvement items was the installation of generators at several wells so that the City could continue to supply water to the community if there was a power outage.  He also said that the City wants to be sure that the City can fight fires and deliver water during the summer months.

 

Mr. Gutierrez said the whole purpose of these generators is to add reliability to the City’s water system.  He said the cost estimates do not only include the cost of the equipment, but engineering and other costs associated with installing the generators and getting appropriate permits from regulatory agencies.  He said that they are large units, at least 100 horsepower in size.  These are not small units.  The individual costs also depend on the size of the well.  The larger the well the larger and more costly the generator.  Mr. Gutierrez stated that he believed the cost estimates to be reasonable at the planning level.  Some might cost more and some might cost less.

 

Mr. Gutierrez commented that the cost of well head treatment varies.  He said if the City is trying to remove TCP 123, this may require the use of different types and a variety of treatment technologies.  He said if the City’s water quality shows that these units using the initial technology are not adequate, the City may have to look at a different technology that might be more appropriate.  These technologies might be less expensive or more expensive when they are used.  He said that he believed the estimated cost of well-head treatment was reasonable under the circumstances. 

 

City Manager Warne asked the City Engineer to address the cost of the waterline replacement costs outlined in the water rate study.

 

City Engineer Gottiparthy noted that in the capital improvements plan in the water rate study contains an exhibit that shows the cost of the next phase of the waterline replacement.   The first phase of the waterline replacement was the recently completed Proposition 13 grant project where the City spent about $2.3 million replacing old waterlines.  These waterlines were partially responsible for the poor water quality.  He commented that the City has completed the design for the next phase which incorporates the waterlines that need replacement in the older part of town.  The cost estimates for the second phase of the waterline improvements are based on the best engineering practices and the City’s most recent cost experience with the first phase of the waterline replacement.  He stated that he wanted to stress that the second phase as outlined in the capital improvement plans in the water rate study does not address all of the waterline issues that need to be addressed that have not been addressed for many years.  None of the maintenance programs have been done.  In order to catch up, a third phase of capital projects will be needed.  This third phase is not designed or funded as part of the rate study.  The second phase of the waterline replacement is funded in the water rate study.

 

  City Manager Warne stated an issue was raised at the last City Council meeting regarding well-head treatment on Well #8.  He said that it was suggested by Foster Farms that this project was funded through the water rate increase.  He said funding for Well #8 is being provided by Foster Farms as part of the settlement agreement between the company and the City.  Although it is listed in the capital improvements plan in the water rate study, it is not being funded by the rate increase.  There will be no cost to the taxpayers for the well head treatment for Well #8.

 

City Manager Warne stated that it had been suggested by Foster Farms that the City had formally bidded a TCP 123 well head treatment project.  He said that this is not true.  The City has never prepared plans and specifications and sent a TCP 123 well-head treatment project out to bid.

 

When the City went through the process of trying to raise its water rates previously over a year ago, the City originally had $19.8 million in the capital improvements.  After a review, the City reduced the capital projects to $8,177,469, which it believes are the most critical capital improvements that need to be done as outlined in the water rate study between 2009 and 2013.  These capital improvements will be paid for through a combination of rates and bond issues.  The water rate study calls for the issue of $4.2 million in bonds in 2011 and $3.5 million in bonds in 2013.

Mayor Varela asked what has been the cost for all the studies in the last five years.  City Manager Warne said approximately $100,000 on consultants, studies, and engineering, according to the Assistant City Manager/Finance Director.  He said this is why he favors moving forward as he does not want to spend any more money.

 

Council Member Espinoza asked if staff had a separate amount for the first analyst and the second analyst.  Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lewis said she had the costs in her office.  She explained that the cost is only for the consultants for the rate study and did not include legal costs or engineering costs.

 

Council Member Espinoza said he knew the City Manager knew about two months ago that four out of five Council votes were needed to approve the rates instead of the usual three votes.  He said that with the three votes he knew the City could have avoided a lot of spending if the City Council had known that.

 

Mayor Varela opened the Public Hearing at 7:12 p.m.

 

Bruno Pena, 1458 Brandy Court, asked about the feed back from two meetings ago. He asked what was the feedback from the scenarios and what the Council decided to do.  He asked if there are any other propositions that the City Council came up with.  He said people want to know how much the City spent on the consultants.  He stated that a former resident told him the City was working on another case study.  He asked if the study was higher or cheaper.  Mr. Pena read a protest letter and submitted it to the City.

 

Council Member Espinoza said that any protest letters can be turned into the City Clerk.  The Mayor asked if there were any more public comments.

 

Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, asked why not have a meeting for all the Hispanics in their own language.   He said that he had talked to Ms. Lewis about it and she explained that maybe the City Attorney would say this would be prejudicial.  Mr. Torres said you people are well informed with all the numbers and charts.  He said he talked to people on the street and they don’t know anything about capital gain.  He wants three different meetings.  Mr. Torres said that in his water bill he received something regarding dog vaccinations, but nothing regarding this meeting that started earlier than usual.  He asked why a meeting notice was not put in the water bill.  He said now we are going to sit here tonight and try to explain to these people in two different languages which is going to take all night.

 

The City Manager said that the City Council directive at the last meeting was to place a notice in the newspaper about the continuation of the public hearing in three languages.  The staff has carried out the City Council directive and placed the notice in the Livingston Chronicle.  In order to avoid being criticized for placing the notice in the legal section, staff had an advertisement placed in the main section of the newspaper.  Council Member Espinoza noted the Council wanted to give people more time and then directed staff to put the notice in the newspaper in three different languages.

 

Mario Mendoza, 1421 Brandy Court, said that the community’s comments had been ignored.  Some questions were never answered at the last meeting.  A two-hour presentation was held and he alleged that there was no air conditioning in the room.  He said it was a smart move to continue the meeting.  He thought it was sad that the Fire Department had to have a fund raiser for equipment they need.  It is not a luxury, but a necessity.  A luxury is what the City Manager is making, which is over a $100,000 per year.

 

Mr. Mendoza asked why the Council wanted to raised the garbage fees, when they did not raise their rates.  Or is the street sweeper the reason why the Council has raised the rates?  He said if this is so, he would like a refund on the property tax he has paid.  He said we the people elected you and we the people can terminate you.

 

City Attorney Subramanian stated the public hearing was opened at 7:14 p.m. which was after the normal City Council meeting start time of 7:00 p.m.; so everyone who thought the normal City Council meeting time was 7:00 p.m. still has time to speak and be heard.

 

Brandon Friesen, 929 Opal Court, stated that a water rate hike is tough at this time.  He said he will not be surprised if more letters do not come in.  He said we can go out and talk to people all day about the rates and they will still oppose it.  What Rosa Gomez said earlier is true, but we are taking money from our kids.  Mr. Friesen said if we are looking at what is best for our kids, then the rates need to be raised for water quality.  He received a new bill from the City regarding a parking lot maintenance fee increase.  He said, “Do I want to pay more money?  No; but it is something that has to be done? Yes.”  He said that parents will be paying about $209 a month in the months of June, July and August.  They use that much water so they must pay for it.  He felt it was not fair for the rest of the residents to pay for those who use large quantities of water.  He thinks what the residents would like to see is another scenario.  He pointed out that the City has already conducted multiple studies.  He said it is time to bite the bullet and make a decision.  It is something that we should not be applauding one or another.  This is a tough decision to sit in the Council’s position.  He asked, “Does the City need to have the people pay for the water that they use? Absolutely!”  The community as a whole needs to pay for the water used.  He hopes the Council will move forward on this.  It is not easy, but it is the right thing to do. 

 

Katherine Schell Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, stated that she had done quite a bit of research and that there is article after article about Livingston, water rates and deficits.  Year after year and time after time there was a warning about the deficit. And every time the deficit got bigger.  Rates were studied and rates put out, but nothing was done.  The deficit got bigger and bigger.  This has been going on for years.  Every time the City Council was warned about the deficits and every time the deficits got bigger and bigger.  She said now it cannot go on much longer.  She said she is glad that is not her on that side of the dais.  She noted that unfortunately it is not like past City Councils have not known that this train wreck was coming.  The train wreck is here, and now you are going to have deal with the toxic spill that is going to be expensive to clean up.

 

Police Chief Eldridge stated he has been in Livingston for 17 years and heard every side of this issue.  He is present to defend the rate increase on behalf of City staff.  He said for the last ten years he has sat in on the many Council meetings on many occasions where water rate increases have been proposed, and if the City Council had raised rates six years ago, and done it in small increments, it would not have such a great impact on the community.  The community does well for the minimal staffing.

 

He heard the lady talking about baseball fields and commented that you cannot do that without money.  He said the water fund has a $1.5 million deficit and asked where is the money coming from?  It comes from the General Fund and other areas.  Chief Eldridge said the rate increase is a hard hit on this community.  He said we have failed to raise rates for whatever reason when they should have been raised.  He said he lives in Merced and pays $109 for water, sewer, garbage and street sweeping. 

 

Police Chief Eldridge told the Council the City has great employees within this community.  We are fighting the battle with a platoon, a small number of people.  You have one staff member assigned to the sports complex which is a tremendous task for one person.  He said we have serious responsibility.  He remembered when he was interim City Manager a gentleman turned brought in a container of water and it was black.  He would not want his family drinking that water.  He said the water is dirty for the most part because of poor lines.  It takes a lot of money to fix it.  He stated the City has a problem and it needs to be resolved.

 

The Mayor asked if there was any more public comment.

 

Angelina Torres, 1620 Jantz, asked has anything changed where the City has to keep doing studies.  The problem is there and it has been there for years.  She said she is not against raising rates, but the Council has to be reasonable.  She said the notices residents received was six pages and it confused her.  The Hispanic community cannot understand them, so she was sure they went into the trash.  She also feels that the City had three years when developers came in and made a killing.  She asked what happened?  Was the City not promised something by them?  She said that she would like to know.

 

Gurpal Samra, 1034 J Street, stated that the City does need to raise the rates, and everyone in the community agrees.  He said the City is losing money, but the rate increases can be done over a longer period of time.  He suggested the Council say no to these three scenarios and bring back a fourth scenario.  People will support a water rate increase if they understand it.  He urged the Council not to vote on rate increases because the citizens need more time to understand it.

 

Jim Marnatti, Director of Environmental Affairs for Foster Farms, commented that he was the one that suggested that the capital costs were inflated.  Foster Farms installed the generator on Well 11 for $37,000.   He said the information for the well head treatment was the City’s own expert.  He sized the system and designed it.  Mr. Marnatti noted that Paul Creighton, former public works director, told him that he bid the project with US Filter and Calgon and the cost came back at $500,000.  He said this is the City’s information.  He said he is not contesting the need for a rate increase; however, we need to be absolutely certain the numbers that are used for the water rate increase are accurate.  We need to be sure that they are not inflated.  Mr. Marnatti requested that the Council provide some transparency in these numbers.  He suggested looking at these numbers in a public way, and then we will all be informed.  He said Foster Farms issued a written letter of protest and the numbers need further examination. 

 

Anna Galvan, speaking Spanish, said she wants a low income charge for the people. She can barely see with one eye and felt there should be a better adjusted price for disabled people.  She noted if the charge is $100 for the water, it would be difficult for her and other people in the community because she is on a fixed income.

 

Fernando Cortez, 2114 Cardella Court, agreed with everything that the City Manager said that the City must make water rate adjustments.  He said he is tired of buying bottles of water and wishes he could be drinking water from the faucet.  He disagrees with all the scenarios because they are not gradual.  He said Scenario #1 hits you one time 175%, and then followed by 7% subsequent increases.  Scenario #2 goes up 100%, then 30%, and then 30%.  Scenario #3 goes up 55%, then 55%, and then 35%.  Mr. Cortez said the City is trying to get money right away.  He suggested making the increases more gradual.  A water bill is going to be a lot of money.  He asked the City Council to think about the people losing their houses.  He said you are going to see a lot more of that.  He said he, nor his co-workers, could understand the water notices. 

 

Mr. Cortez said the first thing that a lot of people think is that it will take one check just to pay for that.  It is wrong, he said.  Communication is the key to everything.  He said the Council needs to learn to communicate.  You need to show it to the people that are going to buy it.  These forms are very confusing. Mr. Cortez said he went to city hall and they gave him a printout for his own usage.  After they figured it out, she showed me the first increase, but not all the years to follow.  He said he is going to end up paying almost $200 for water.  He told the Council they may want someone here to translate, instead of the City Manager.  Have someone officially translate in all the languages.

 

Bill Ingram, 656 F Street, said he has a concern that has been bothering him about a comment that has been made by the Mayor.  He noted that he brought up the fact eight months before election time that this needed to be dealt with.  But he was told at that time, that it was election time and would have to wait until after the election. 

Mr. Ingram said the City has many little households and low income families.  He asked if this was taken into account with these reviews?  He said there are approximately 500 vacant lots, so this money was lost from developers.  We have had foreclosures on homes that may never be sold again.  We have families that are hanging on with their fingernails with their homes because they took interest-only loans.  Now the Council has to take these things into account.  Do they need raise rates now, of course they do.  He said rates should have been raised last year.  Mr. Ingram stated, “They put you in office and by God they can take you out.”

 

Kaye Greeley, 1571 Monte Cristo Way, stated this reminds her of two years ago when we were sitting in the Veterans’ Hall discussing water rate increases.  You were there Bill Ingram, and you were there former Mayor. Samra, and nothing came of that.  We have spent a $100,000 to come up with these reviews.  Nobody wants to spend more money.  I would like to have water that I can drink, and water in my bath tub that is clean.  Why should we spend money on bottled water and throwing the empty plastic bottles into the landfills?  How smart is that?   She said, “I think we need to get real and look at it for what it is.”

 

Gloria Martinez, 1470 Brandy, commented that the water price is ridiculous.  She said maybe you have good jobs, but we do not.  She thinks it is really hard for citizens that are disabled, and now have to worry about the water.  She reiterated that you probably have a good paying job and she knows there are a lot of people in Livingston that do not.  They are going to ask themselves if they pay for their water or their medicine.  She said you may not have to worry about that, but she does.

 

    Kathryn Reyes, 1325 Emerald Drive, asked if the City Council selects a scenario tonight, what would it take to lower the rates if more monies then expected came in or some of the capital projects came in at a lower cost?  City Manager Warne said the City Council could review the rates later and then decide not to raise them if they so desire.  It is easy to lower rates, but very difficult to raise them.

 

Mayor Varela asked if there was anyone else who wished to speak.

 

Chris Rivera, 1337 Emerald Drive, asked if staff could tell him how much the bill would be if he used 25,000 gallons of water?  Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lewis and Sudhir Pardiwala gave an explanation.  Chris Rivera stated that the people elected the City Council to do the best for the City of Livingston.  We have elected other people to do something for the City of Livingston in the past, and nothing was done.  He said we need to do something, so please do what the people elected you to do.

 

Maria Alvarez, speaking Spanish, said she came to Livingston in 1971 and feels she is paying too much for water, raising the water too much, thank you.

 

Mayor Varela asked if there was anyone else that would like to speak that had not yet spoken.  Council Member Espinoza asked in Spanish if there was anyone else that would like to speak.  Mayor Varela stated that all protest letters had to be submitted prior to the close of the public hearing.  He asked in Spanish if anyone wanted to turn in a protest letter.  Council Member Espinoza asked the same thing in Spanish.

 

Mayor Varela stated that he would like to provide anyone that would like to submit or withdraw a written protest the opportunity to do so.  Once the public hearing is closed state law prohibits receiving any additional written protests.   

 

Motion: M/S Nateras/Aguilar to close the Public Hearing at 8:17 p.m.  Motion carried 4-1 by the following votes:

AYES:                  Council Members:          Aguilar, Nateras, Varela, Vierra

NOES:                  Council Members:          Espinoza

ABSENT:   Council Members:          None

 

Mayor Varela called for a recess at 8:17.  The meeting resumed at 8:25 p.m.

 

Mayor Varela asked the City Clerk for the count on the number of protest letters received.

 

City Clerk Donna Barnes reported that 401 protest letters had been received, however not all of them have been verified.  Council Member Espinoza asked if that was the total since the beginning of the public comment period.  Ms. Barnes replied that that was the total.  Council Member Nateras asked if the letters recommended any other scenarios.  Ms. Barnes responded that she had not read through each letter, but the majority of the letters were a form letter that had been signed by residents and the verbiage was that they did not oppose an increase, just proposed that it be done in smaller increments.

 

City Manager Warne noted that in order for the protest letters to affect the public hearing, there would need to be approximately 1500 protest letters received on the approximate 3000 water accounts.

 

Mayor Varela stated that this matter was now before the City Council for consideration.  He asked who would like to start.

 

Council Member Aguilar stated that the City Council has sat through three meetings and taken into consideration the concerns and comments of the citizens.  They were heard.  She noted that none of the three scenarios appealed to her.  Council Member Aguilar noted that she was not sure the City Council should continue to consider the three scenarios without considering the opinions of the citizens.  She was not opposed to increases, but felt that the City Council should look at a fourth option given the comments and concerns expressed by the community.

 

Mayor Varela asked if Council Member Aguilar was opposed to all three scenarios.  She wanted to come up with another option.  Ms. Aguilar stated that perhaps some of the capital projects could be put on hold for awhile.  The pipes need to be repaired, but at a different level. 

 

Council Member Nateras thanked the audience for coming out to the meeting and noted that the concerns were heard. She stated that she felt the information sent out to the community regarding the proposed increase was confusing. She directed citizens to go to City Hall for one-on-one explanations when she was approached.

 

Council Member Nateras noted that times are difficult for everyone and there are many suffering.  Ms. Nateras stated that she resented previous City Council members and mayors for failing to take action, and they have some gall leaving this difficult rate decision now on the shoulders of the new Council.  Ms. Nateras pointed out several past Council Members and Mayors who failed to take action, and now are speaking up in opposition of the water rate increase.  Ms. Nateras apologized if her statements insulted anyone.  Council Member Nateras noted that she didn’t like having to make this type of decision either, and that she felt the increases were too much.  However, she feels that some action must be taken.  She recommended scenario #3 with the provision that the rates be reviewed, and perhaps revised, in six months.  If things are better adjustments can be made to the rates to reduce them. Ms. Nateras thanked everyone for comments and concerns and noted this was not an easy decision. Ms. Nateras stated that she appreciated all those who voted for her and trusted her to make the right decision.

 

Council Member Espinoza commented that he did not like the tiered rates system proposed in the rate study.  He wanted a flat rate system.  He did not feel the City Council had enough input on the process before the proposed rates were presented.  Additionally, he expressed concern for many citizens in the City that have large yards and large lots requiring a lot of water.  Mr. Espinoza stated that it is painful to see people on fixed incomes worried about the increases.  He noted it would be a hard decision and proposed that the Council consider a different scenario.  He said that he did not know that it would take four votes to adopt the rates until two months ago.

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra noted that he and Council Member Espinoza have been on this City Council for a few years, and there have never been enough votes to pass any utility rate increase.  Mr. Vierra states that it takes four votes to pass a rate increase and he pointed out that neither the City nor the Council makes the rules.   These rules are made the State Legislature and Proposition 218.  Mayor Pro Tem Vierra stated that the City would have to have a consultant prepare a new report and comply with the Proposition 218 process again to consider another rate scenario.  The City has already spent over $100,000 for consultants, not including the consultant’s bills for the last month and the attorney costs.  Mr. Vierra reported that citizens are being misinformed by some of the opponents about the rate increase.  He said that citizens have approached him after being falsely told by opponents that they were going to be paying $175 more a month for their water bill.  These same people have accused staff and the City Council of hiding money.  He pointed out if money was being hidden, it would not make sense to leave a vacant position open that would help with the workload throughout the City, especially parks.  He stated that under Scenario #3 a person using the 6,000 gallon limit would be paying $8.41.  They are currently paying $9.90.  These 6,000 gallons is more than sufficient for most senior citizen households throughout the City, according to what they have told him.  Under the current structure everyone pays the same.  However, with the proposed structure, those who use more will pay more. Under this scenario people are going to pay for what they are using.  He says that people have been observed wasting water by washing their driveways and streets.

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra explained that the capital costs in the water rate study included prevailing wage in the cost estimates, and that the cost of equipment as stated by Foster Farms, was a six-year old estimate.  They are not going to pay the same price for equipment today as they did six years ago.  In addition, he noted, that to be eligible for federal money requiring a City match, Livingston would have to show that they have the match money available.  If something is not done, the City cannot do this and could potentially miss out on grant money.  He pointed out that if something is not done soon, the General Fund money will be used up covering the deficit in the Water Enterprise Fund, and the City will not be able to continue the same level of services for Recreation programs, Police and Fire.  Many cities are considering closing the parks.  What are we going to do if we do not have recreation for them?  We are operating at “bare bones.”  We currently have positions that are vacant.

 

We need to do something, but I did not hear any other answers tonight.  All we heard is that we do not like any of the three scenarios.

 

Mr. Vierra noted that Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Vickie Lewis provided information on programs that can help if someone needs assistance with utilities. This information is available to the public.  Mayor Pro Tem Vierra wanted to clarify that the rumors of water bills going up to $175 is incorrect.  He noted that under the new rate structure, users will pay for usage, and those who use less will not be subsidizing the higher users. While Mr. Vierra admitted he had not made up his mind which scenario was best, he agreed that something needed to be done.  He stated the City is “bleeding” and the debt keeps getting bigger.  He noted another option is to hire another consultant and go through the process again spending even more money and there was still no guarantee there would be a better proposed solution.  Mr. Vierra asked if someone on the City Council had any better solutions.

 

Council Member Nateras noted that she would like to apologize to all of the previous elected officials for her comments earlier.  Ms. Nateras stated that if any of the previous Council members has a solution, come to us.  But do not stir the community with misinformation. 

 

Mayor Varela noted that the Council has been listening to comments for three meetings, and this is a decision that is not being made without consideration of the financial outcome to the members of the community.  But a decision has to be made.  He said thousands of children each day at Yamato Colony Elementary School, Selma Herndon Elementary School, Campus Park Elementary School, Livingston Middle School, Livingston High School and the Child Development Center and the day care providers in the community drink this water.  The teachers do not buy them bottled water.  He noted that the longer the decision is postponed the more it is costing the City in consultant and attorney fees—including you being here.  It is averaging $25,000 per month from the General Fund.  In addition the City continues to go into debt approximately $25,000 a month.

 

City Manager Warne confirmed the amount each month varies, but it is $25,000 – $30,000 a month.  The City cannot do this forever.

 

Mayor Varela stated that this is bleeding the General Fund, and it is up to the City Council to find the solution.  Mr. Varela noted that the Council cannot simply offer another scenario without going through the process of hiring a consultant, hiring an attorney, reviewing and going through a lengthy approval process because it is the law.  He also stated that the City is bound by stringent water quality laws in the State of California.  State officials are constantly coming up with new water filtering regulations for the things in the water.   Because of this the City has to be prepared for such.  In order to receive grant funding, the City is often required to match funds.  Without a rate increase, the City cannot meet these standards and will risk being out of compliance.

 

Mayor Varela asked City Manager Warne to comment on what is happening in Atwater.

 

City Manager Warne noted that unfortunately Livingston is not alone. Neighboring cities are continuing to increase rates as well.  Atwater’s future sewer bill is going to be over $100 because the state is now requiring that they treat the wastewater to secondary standards.  Merced and Los Banos are raising their water and sewer rates.  Mr. Warne also stated that it was not feasible to provide the same services at the cost that was set in 1995.

 

Mayor Varela reiterated the Council is going through the process that is required to make the necessary changes to the rates.  He stated that the decision can be put off for one year or two years, and then the campaign slogan will be we need to do something about the rates and this “dirty, stinky water.”  We are really going to do something this time.  But the City will suffer more and more as time goes on.  Mayor Varela noted that the City Council members during the election campaign all knew this issue was on the horizon and that a water rate increase needed to be done.  Mayor Varela requested that the City Council make a decision.  He noted that the most important thing was to act on the issue, and be responsible to the citizens and the thousands of children that drink this water in the public schools.  We have to be responsible.  He said that he understands why past City Councils did not act.  This is a hard decision.  Mayor Varela stated this is a difficult decision, and that if the City Council feels it would cost them an election, at least they stood up for principle and something that is important and benefits the community in the long run.

 

Mayor Varela stated he was in support of adopting Scenario #3, and then over the next six months to intently, carefully and cautiously, look at the budget and then potentially cut down the future incremental rate increases to maybe 10%.  He asked the City Council to step up to the plate and be responsible and make the right decision for our community.  He said that he did not get anything out of this except to be called a liar and a cheat.  The Council members are men and women of integrity and want to do the right thing.  He said that if the public did not like the right thing, they should understand why the decision was made.  

 

Council Member Nateras asked Mayor Varela to clarify his proposal and why he suggested 10%.  Mayor Varela stated that his proposal would get us moving in the right direction.  He said that a 10% increase would increase the water rate by six or seven dollars.  So that three years from now we do not hear that we should have raised it six dollars.  Once it is approved, the City Council and staff can make decisions on the implementation of the plan.  There is a plan, but ultimately it is the City Council’s responsibility to approve the plan.

 

City Attorney Subramanian clarified that Mayor Varela was proposing to adopt a rate scenario, and then come back and review it before the next step in the rate increase took place.   Mayor Varela stated that this was his proposal to adopt Scenario #3 and then look at it before the next incremental rate increase becomes effective.

 

Mayor Varela asked for City Council comments on this suggestion.

 

Council Member Espinoza felt that the scenario should include a flat charge of 35,000 gallons of usage rather than 6,000 gallons.  He noted that utility bills would be tremendous for those allotted only 6,000 gallons for the first flat charge.  He expressed concern for users who forget to turn off their sprinklers.

 

Mayor Varela noted that it was up to the user to monitor more closely.  Mr. Varela asked the City Manager for the statistics of users over 35,000 gallons.

 

City Manager Warne noted that only 17% of the users exceed the 20,000 gallons a month.  He also noted that very few users even use 20,000 gallons a month.  City Manager Warne noted that is was very unusual for anyone to use 35,000 gallons a month.  This is why the current rate structure is unfair to seniors who are using less water.  A person using 5,000 gallons of water pays the same as a person that uses 35,000 gallons of water.  This is why the consultant recommended using a tiered rate structure. Those who use less will pay less.

 

Council Member Espinoza expressed concern for those residents who have large yards or a large number of plants that would require more watering.  He said that his neighbor has a large lot and is watering cactus.  The Mayor said that cactus is a desert plant and he did not know how much water it would take.

 

Mayor Varela addressed an issue that was sent via e-mail to him regarding adoption of odd and even watering days like Fresno.  Mr. Varela noted that Livingston is not Fresno, and the most effective way to curb water usage is to pay for it.  Users who allow water to run will be paying for the usage.  Mayor Varela stated that, as a community, the City Council was elected to lead and to set policies even when it’s not a popular decision or it hurts.  He said that this is the right decision.  In the end we will not have to deal with these consultant fees and attorney’s fees, and we can move forward.  He asked if there is a change of opinion.  Council Member Aguilar stated she had not changed her mind.   

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra stated that if the Council does not take action on one of the three scenarios, we are telling the people that they will have to spend another $500,000 plus to revisit this and start from scratch.  Mayor Pro Tem Vierra stated again that, if the scenarios are rejected, the required process is to seek a consultant and begin the process all over.  Mayor Pro Tem Vierra asked the City Attorney to confirm this.

 

City Attorney Subramanian confirmed Mayor Pro Tem Vierra’s explanation. She noted that the City would have to start again if the City Council chose another scenario, including hiring consultants to (1) analyze all the data, and make (2) make recommendations if another scenario were developed.  Public notices would need to be sent out again.

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra also wanted to advise the community that the City will continue paying for consultants and attorneys until the issue is resolved.

 

Council Member Aguilar stated that, regarding the spending of funds on consultants and attorneys, they should have listened to citizen input first before they decided to spend money on numbers.  Ms. Aguilar stated that, as a Council Member and resident she feels the same.  I think if you are putting numbers out to the people, you should consider everything that has been mentioned tonight; and to give a choice to the people and allow them to vote on it.  The people should be given the choice to pay for services of consultants and attorneys.  The people need to decide and the people should decide in the beginning.  The economy is bad and foreclosures are continuing.  It is not going to improve for two years, things will continue dropping.

 

Mayor Varela explained that the selection of the staff was made in the past by the City Council.  They do not approach the community to ask them how to run the business.  That is our job and where the City Council comes in.  Mr. Varela stated that the City Council has been selected by the community and has put their confidence in us to make these policy decisions.  The community places its confidence in the City Council to approach staff.   Mayor Varela stated that Council Member Aguilar’s comments are irresponsible for the City Council to ask the community to dictate to the City Manager what he needs to do.  He stated that this is not the order of business in the City.  Mr. Varela asked the City Attorney to respond to this.

 

City Attorney Subramanian responded.  She noted that the City Manager is responsible for the finances of the City.  She also noted that the City Manager has worked on the potential scenarios with the consultant and the attorneys.   It is not typical to have a City consider multiple rate scenarios, but because the City Manager was uncertain what the City Council and the public would like to see, multiple rate scenarios were developed and presented.  Ms. Subramanian reported that the three rate scenarios offered captured the actual cost of providing service.   However, a fourth or fifth scenario may not necessarily recover all the costs of the service.  You could potentially have the General Fund subsidizing the cost of service.

 

Council Member Espinoza expressed concern about the process to change rates.  He stated that the City Manager knew two months ago that four votes were required to pass the water rate increase.  He knew my opinion.  He said that the scenarios could have been rearranged.  Council Member Espinoza said that he did not appreciate efforts to make him feel bad because he does not want to move forward on a hard decision.  He recommended the increase be no more than 10% to 15% due to the economy.  The income is not there now.

 

Council Member Aguilar stated that she was disappointed that the Mayor was not listening to the people.  She noted that the Council works for the citizens as a whole and the City Manager works for the City Council as a whole.

 

Mayor Varela stated once again that a decision has to be made.  Mr. Varela stated that if the rate increase is not adopted, the City will be forced to begin the process all over and spend additional money on top of what has already been spent.  Mr. Varela said that the City Council has had all the information since shortly after the election, and regardless if it takes three votes or four votes, this is something that needs to get done.  Mr. Varela noted the vote is for the improvement of the community.  Additionally, City staff are looking for resources to help those who would be adversely affected by the increase.  He stated this is about problem solving and should not be made into a political issue.  This is something that needs to get done.  By choosing Scenario #3, there would be a minimum impact on the people, and the Council can later choose to adjust incremental increases.  It was noted the City will lose out on more grant funding by not making a decision.  We are all listening to the people, but we have to act responsibly and think about what is important in the end.  The thousands of children drinking this water is not good.  Everything is going up.

 

The Mayor made a motion to continue this item to the next City Council meeting, and asked if he had a second to his motion.   

 

Council Member Espinoza again stated that he would like to see a different scenario. Mayor Varela said that he would like Council Member Espinoza to listen to the people.  He stated that he had informed the City Manager a week ago, the meeting did not need to be held.

 

City Manager Warne reported that both the public and the City Council have been advised of the City’s financial situation, and that each month the City loses money.  The City staff has worked with the consultant to prepare three different scenarios to give the Council options to address this issue.  The first scenario was harsh and the second and third options are less harsh because we did not know what direction the City Council would wish to go.  The City tried to come up with options that addressed capital costs, ongoing costs and accumulated deficit.  The information was distributed to the City Council in December 2008.  He said no one came forward with another option or scenario since that time.   He said that he did not hear another scenario this evening.  City Manager Warne noted that if something is not passed, the City will be forced to start cutting from the General Fund to cover the costs.  City Manager Warne noted the logical thing to do would be to adopt a scenario and revisit it over time and make appropriate adjustments.  He also commented that after the information had been distributed to the City Council, some members of the City Council did not come and ask any questions about the information or go though it page by page to understand it.  He said that he did not want to embarrass any member of the City Council this evening about who came to see him and who did not.  No one has come up with another scenario that works that addresses the three areas:  accumulated deficit, on-going operating costs and capital costs.   

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra noted that the Council has not been able to get four votes since the year 2000, and going for another scenario is not going to get four votes.  The only thing that it would accomplish is spending more money after spending $100,000.  Mr. Vierra suggested that the only other option would be to make cuts like other cities in California have done or ultimately go bankrupt like the City of Vallejo.  He stated that the City could not continue to spend money it does not have.

 

Motion: M/S Varela/Nateras to continue the City Council discussion of this item to the next Council Meeting.  Motion carried 3-2 by the following votes:

AYES:                  Council Members:          Nateras, Varela, Vierra

NOES:                  Council Members:          Aguilar, Espinoza

ABSENT:   Council Members:          None

 

City Manager Warne noted the next Council meeting will be held at the Veterans’ Memorial Hall beginning at 6:00 p.m., May 19, 2009, due to the special election.  The City Council chambers will be used as a polling place.

 

2.     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 Manager Warne introduced this item.  He said that he already described the process that the City went through to develop scenarios to adjust the domestic wastewater rates.  A Proposition 218 rate study was completed and the study has been posted on the City’s web site and has been available at City Hall.  Proposition 218 notices have been sent to the public.  Public meetings have been held on March 26, April 21 and May 5.  The City Council decided to continue the public meeting until tonight.

 

Mayor Varela opened the public hearing at 9:28 p.m.

 

Gerri Martin, 16181 Vinewood Avenue, said that the City states wastewater fees need to be increased in part to cover capital infrastructure improvements to repair replace and update the City’s aging wastewater system.  According to the current DWWTP Master Plan, parts of the capital improvement costs are for odor control.  No current resident of Livingston has any need for this.  Odor control would only benefit homeowners in the proposed Gallo development.  These costs should not be included in the monthly rate increase calculation and they should only be charged to new homes built next to the sewer.  In June 2006, the City purchased property adjacent to the current sewer at a cost of $1,409,043.  These funds came from the DWWTP funds.  At the time of purchase, it was said that this money would be prepaid by development impact fees.  That development still has not materialized.  Is that $1.5 million expenditure part of the reason sewer rates need to be increased?  Current users should not be responsible for this expense.  This land will not be needed until the City grows to 40,000.

 

Gurpal Samra, 1034 J Street, stated that he did not like being blamed for the need to raise water and sewer rates when two of the current members were on past City Councils.  He said that he was tired of it.  He stated he was entitled to his opinion and was tired of being blamed for not taking action.  Mr. Samra said that the capital improvement projects being proposed include $1.2 million for mechanical dewatering.  He suggested that the City reduce this by not expanding the domestic wastewater treatment plant.  He stated he was against spending any money for mechanical dewatering and said that the current plant can accommodate an additional 10,000 residents.  He said that a rate increase was necessary, but the wastewater treatment plant capital improvement projects need be removed.

 

Everado Arroyo, 1165 Fourth Street, stated that he would need one hour to say what he needs to say.  He asked if Mayor Varela would be willing to meet with him one-on- one.  Mayor Varela agreed to meeting at City Hall anytime.  He asked the same of Council Member Nateras, who also agreed to meeting at City Hall anytime. Mr. Arroyo stated that the solutions were so easy that it makes him laugh, but he stated he would not waste his time here tonight.

 

Fernando Cortez, 2114 Cardella Court, addressed Mayor Pro Tem Vierra regarding the information stating water rates will rise to $175.  Mr. Cortez clarified that the information came from the information that was mailed to residents.  He stated that rates could rise as much as 175%.  Mr. Cortez stated that the information received from the City was difficult to understand.  He also said that the fourth scenario was sent through protest letters.  He stated he typed it himself and it states support for a more gradual increase.  He noted that many people read it, understood it and signed it.  He said that he is not against the rate increases, but said that they should be spread out.  He said that the numbers are wrong and are made up.

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra stated that he knew that the increase was 175% for one scenario.  He said that some of the opponents of the rate increases were misleading the residents.  A household of one using less than the 6,000 gallons will not be paying $175 a month.  This incorrect information was being given in the community.  Mayor Pro Tem Vierra commented on the difficulty of the language in the notices. He said that the language in the notices was required under Proposition 218.  He asked for clarification from the City Attorney.

  

City Attorney Subramanian explained that Proposition 218 required the City to provide notice to the residents, and that the City was required to use certain language in doing so.

 

Mr. Cortez stated that he thought that the notices were missing information.

 

Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, stated that he turned in his protest letter for all three rates at the same time.  The information should have come out in the water bill.  We can wait another two weeks.  We can all work together.  You work for us and that is why we elected you.  We don’t work for you.  You are suppose to negotiate with the City Manager and decide for the community.  You need to work as a team.  It doesn’t matter if the city in debt or not, we are still paying that much.  Those that do not have any money still have those bills.  We depend on you to look for our interests.  So put that in your mind.

 

Angelina Torres, 1620 Jantz Street, stated a gentleman came up earlier and told us what it is going to cost.  Can you tell us what it is really going to cost and what we need to do?  Looking at the map there is a lot that we have to do.  We should do it in steps.  It is hard times for everyone, and they are going to hurt and hurt more.

 

The Mayor asked if there were any more public comments.  The Mayor stated that he saw no one desiring to speak on this matter.  However, if there is anyone that has not submitted a letter of protest, the opportunity to do so is now.  Once the public hearing is closed, the City Council cannot accept any more protest letters.  He asked the audience if there are any letters.  He stated that there are no additional letters.

 

Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to close the public hearing.  Motion carried 5-0 by the following votes:

AYES:                  Council Members:          Nateras, Varela, Vierra, Aguilar, Espinoza

NOES:                  Council Members:          None

ABSENT:   Council Members:          None

 

The public hearing was closed at 9:51 p.m.

 

City Manager Warne asked that the City Engineer to address the mechanical dewatering issue in the wastewater capital improvements plan.

 

Jose Gutierrez, Carollo Engineers, stated that the reason for recommending mechanical dewatering was because the domestic wastewater treatment plant expansion would use the location where the sludge beds are currently located.  Mechanical dewatering would also help prevent any contamination from the sludge beds.  He said that the mechanical dewatering would not be needed until the wastewater treatment plant is expanded.  

 

Mayor Varela asked City Clerk Donna Barnes for a count on the letters of protest.

 

Ms. Barnes responded that there were 401 letters of protest received.  City Manager Warne reported that there are approximately 3,034 wastewater accounts.

 

Mayor Varela asked for comments from the City Council.

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra suggested this item be continued.  Council Member Nateras agreed with Mr. Vierra.

 

Motion: M/S Vierra/Espinoza to continue the discussion on this item the next City Council meeting.  Motion carried 5-0 by the following votes:

AYES:                  Council Members:          Nateras, Varela, Vierra, Aguilar, Espinoza

NOES:                  Council Members:          None

ABSENT:   Council Members:          None

 

 

CONSENT CALENDAR

 

3.     Approve Amendment No. 2 to Merced County Contract No. 2002117 Providing for the Implementation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II Storm Water Program, and Authorize the City Manager to Sign the Amendment.

 

Council Member Espinoza requested this item be pulled for discussion. He requested more information from the City Manager.  City Manager Warne stated that the City is required to meet federal storm water requirements.  When the original contract with the County was signed, the City was going to be part of the Merced County program to meet federal flood requirements.  Since that time several years ago, the City decided to do its own plan and have its own program and management system.  This agreement does not change anything from what the City is currently doing.  This is a housekeeping item.      

 

Council Member Aguilar asked about the information in the report that states the City saves $10,700 toward the cost of program development and limitation.  She asked about a copy of the old program because she would like to compare them before voting on this item.  City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy responded to the item.  He noted that the City applied for its own plan and received its own separate permit.  Since the City is not part of the group, it is not obligated to pay the $10,700.

 

Council Member Aguilar noted that she is interested in the pros and cons of not being with this group.  She noted that someone had to be doing the work and if it is a significant amount of work, how much is it costing the City?  Mr. Gottiparthy noted that he didn’t have the information in front of him.  However, the plan was very standard and the City opted to do their own plan so as not to be tied to other agencies.

 

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra commented that he remembered several years back when Council was called out in the middle of flooded streets to make sure no one got hurt. He pointed out since the City has taken over its own plan those issues do not exist.  He stated he’d rather see the City continue to do what they are to keep from flooding and doesn’t see the benefit of joining with four or five other agencies.

 

     City Manager Warne noted the City has been running its own program for several years and it is quite effective.  Council Member Nateras stated that she agreed with Mayor Pro Tem Vierra.  In the past, each year there were always flooding issues.  She recommended that the City Council move forward with this.

 

     Motion: M/S Espinoza/Vierra to Approve Amendment No. 2 to Merced County Contract No. 2002117 Providing for the Implementation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II Storm Water Program, and Authorize the City Manager to Sign the Amendment.

     Motion carried 4-1 by the following votes:

     AYES:        Council Members:         Nateras, Varela, Vierra, Espinoza

     NOES:        Council Members:  Aguilar

     ABSENT:   Council Members:  None

 

 

4.     Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Act on Behalf of the City of Livingston for a Financing Agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board for the Planning, Design and Construction of the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion.

 

Council Member Espinoza asked for further information on this item.

 

City Manager Warne reported that the City has been working on obtaining grants for the domestic wastewater treatment plant expansion.  One of the grant requirements is a resolution, authorizing someone to sign documents on behalf of the City.  This is a requirement of the grant application.  He said that any financing plan put in place would have to come to the City Council for approval.  He noted this was simply an administrative item.

 

Gerri Martin spoke to this item.  She said that it was very confusing, because there was discussion about expanding that plant.  She stated there was no need for a plant expansion since the City population is not at 20,000.  She said that the City Council needs to read the mitigation measure 4.13.7.1B in the draft General Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  She said that the City should not think about expanding until the City fulfills this mitigation measure. 

 

Mike Torres also addressed this item.  He noted that according to the general plan, that sewer plant is good for 25,000 people.  Without the EIR, the expansion should not even be addressed.  Mr. Torres asked how much power the City Manager would have. 

 

Council Member Espinoza asked to see the agreement before he voted on it.

 

City Manager Warne noted that the resolution is purely administrative and that the Council could designate anyone to sign documents on behalf of the City.  The resolution does not change any of the City’s procurement policies or give the City Manager any additional power or authority.  It is part of the application to designate someone to sign on behalf of the City.

 

Motion: M/S Vierra/Varela to Authorize the City Manager to Act on Behalf of the City of Livingston for a Financing Agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board for the Planning, Design and Construction of the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion.  Motion carried 3-2 by the following votes:

 

AYES:                  Council Members:          Nateras, Varela, Vierra,

NOES:                  Council Members:          Aguilar, Espinoza

ABSENT:   Council Members:          None

 

5.     Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on April 7, 2009.

 

6.     Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 29, 2009.

 

Motion: M/S Vierra/Aguilar to approve items 5 and 6 of the consent calendar

Motion carried 5-0 by the following votes:

AYES:                  Council Members:          Nateras, Varela, Vierra, Aguilar, Espinoza

NOES:                  Council Members:          None

ABSENT:   Council Members:          None

 

 

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS         

 

7.     City Manager Announcements and Reports.

 

City Manager Warned noted he had nothing to report.

 

ADJOURNMENT       

 

The meeting adjourned by consensus at 10:10 p.m.

 

 

                                                                                   ________________________________

 City Clerk of the City of Livingston

 

 

APPROVED:         July 7, 2009

 

 

_______________________________

 Mayor or Mayor Pro Tempore

 

 

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.

 

 

4 thoughts on “MAY 5, 2009

  1. Pingback: July 7, 2009 Livingston City Council Agenda Alert! « Thegardeningsnail’s Weblog

  2. Pingback: A Brief History of Time (Spent on “Fixing” Water, Waste Water, and Garbage Rates-and other related issues) Part 4— October,2008 through June 2009 « Thegardeningsnail’s Weblog

  3. Pingback: A Soldier in Need, a Notice of Intent, and a Presidential Turkey « Thegardeningsnail's Weblog (because not every critter is hiding under a rock…)

  4. Pingback: A Brief History of Time About Utility Rates Part 8: A Change of Consultants: An Illegal 42’ Sewer Pipe; and a Special Planning Commission Meeting | Thegardeningsnail's Weblog (because not every critter is hiding under a rock…)

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