NOVEMBER 17, 2009

SPECIAL MEETING

LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL

NOVEMBER 17, 2009

A Special Meeting of the Livingston City Council was held on November 17, 2009, in the Livingston Pentecost (Portuguese) Hall with Mayor Varela presiding.

CALL TO ORDER     

Mayor Varela called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.  He reminded everyone that the City had Spanish and Punjabi translators at the meeting.  Translation equipment is available in the back of the room so that members of the audience could hear the proceeding in Spanish and Punjabi, using head phones.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.

ROLL CALL

   Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.                      

   Mayor Pro-Tem Frank Vierra (Excused)

   Council Member Rodrigo Espinoza

   Council Member Margarita Aguilar

   Council Member Martha Nateras

CHANGES TO THE AGENDA

Council Member Espinoza said he did not see City Council Comments on the agenda.  He would like to add City Council Comments right before the Consent Calendar.  He also asked to pull Warrant Number 69181 for separate discussion by the City Council. 

Council Member Nateras said we should follow the City Council agenda as written because we  have a lot of people from the public here today.  Mayor Varela agreed and said that the City Council should stay with the agenda as written and move forward.

PROCLAMATION

Mayor Varela read a Proclamation of the City of Livingston for a Day of Thanksgiving.

CONSENT CALENDAR

The following Consent Calendar items were presented for the Council’s consideration:

     1.  Resolution Awarding Construction Contract to Hensley’s Paving, Inc., Hickman, CA, Approving the Expenditure of Construction Funds for the Basketball Courts at Walnut Sports Complex Land Development Fund Competitive 06-01613 and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute a Construction Contract with Hensley’s Paving, Inc.

Council Member Espinoza had a question regarding the amount of the federal grant for the basketball courts.  He stated that the staff report for this item states that the City received a federal grant for $50,000.  He thought the grant amount was for $100,000.  He wanted to know if the $50,000 figure for the federal grant was right or wrong.

City Manager Warne stated that he could answer Council Member Espinoza’s question.  The amount of the federal grant was $50,000.  In addition to the federal grant, he said there is a required match of City funds.  The City’s matching funds would come from the  Municipal Facilities Development Impact Fees Capital Projects Fund.  He stated that the project included the construction of three basketball courts at the Livingston Sports Complex.  The basketball courts will be lighted.  They will be constructed at the location outlined in Livingston Sports Complex Master Plan.  Staff recommends approval this evening so that the City can move forward with construction of the project.

Council Member Espinoza said that this is great because he has been pushing for the project for a long time.  He asked why the project had not moved forward sooner, since he thought that the City had received the grant four years ago.  Mr. Espinoza said that he was sure the grant was for $100,000, but he would have to go back in the minutes and double check on that.         

     2.  Approval of Warrant Register of October 28, 2009, with Exception of Warrant Number 69096.

3.     Approval of Warrant Register of November 12, 2009, with Exception of Warrant Number 69181.

Motion:  M/S Varela/Nateras to approve the Consent Calendar items.  The motion carried 4-0.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

4.     Council Meeting Rules of Decorum and Conduct.

Council Member Espinoza asked if the Council Meeting Rules of Decorum and Conduct could be translated into Spanish as they were read.  City Manager Warne stated that translation takes place simultaneously.  As people speak in English, it is translated into Punjabi and Spanish and broadcast simultaneously into the head phones.  He said that if anyone needed head phones to listen to the simultaneous translation into Spanish and Punjabi, the City has 170 head phones in the back of the room.  Therefore, the City Council does not need to read the Council Meeting Rules of Decorum and Conduct in Spanish.

          Mayor Varela translated City Attorney’s statement into Spanish and Mohani Thiara translated it into Punjabi.

Mayor Varela said we will move forward.  We ask everyone to be patient.  He was going to let the City Attorney speak about the Rules and Conduct of our meeting tonight.

City Attorney Jon Hobbs commented that State law authorizes the City Council to adopt rules of conduct to maintain decorum and order in meetings.  He will let the Mayor read the proposed rule and    then the City Council can act as they wish.

Mayor Varela explained that these Rules of Decorum and Conduct are so that people listening through the head pieces can understand without any disruptions.

          Mayor Varela read the following: “Any person who shouts, yells, or interrupts the speaker at the podium or a Council person or a person who has the floor; any person who refuses to remain reasonably quiet while the speaker is speaking; or any other person who otherwise substantially disrupts, disturbs, or impedes the effective conduct of the City Council meeting is subject to removal from the meeting.”

Mayor Varela said that this rule would apply, not only to the City Council, but to everyone in the room.  He said that we want to have a peaceful and informative meeting so that everybody can hear and understand.  Mayor Varela explained that this rule is consistent with State and Federal law governing the conduct of City Council meetings.  If the City Council wishes to adopt these rules of conduct, they may do so by a motion and a majority vote.

       Mayor Varela asked for a motion from the City Council.

Council Member Aguilar said she would like to make a comment before a motion is made.  She said she knows that we had a few individuals that were speaking out of hand at the last meeting.  She understands where Mayor Varela is coming from in order to keep a balance in the volume of speakers.   She felt the rules need to be more specific to include staff, heads of departments, City Council Members, City Manager and Mayor.  Council Member Aguilar said she has received quite a few complaints about some City Council Members speaking out of turn at the last meeting.  She thinks that this needs to be more specific.  She thinks there needs to be some changes before the City Council approves anything.

City Attorney Hobbs stated that this rule would apply to staff as well. 

Council Member Espinoza commented that the other day he was looking at another City Council Rules of Decorum and Conduct prepared by past City Attorney Tom Hallinan.  He said that both seemed different.  He would like to compare the two before the City Council approves the one prepared by the City Attorney Hobbs.  He suggested continuing this item to the next meeting.

Council Member Nateras stated we should move on. We have a current City Attorney that we are paying.  We should abide by his recommendations.

Mayor Varela stated this rule applies to everyone. We want to hold a respectful meeting. It applies to the Mayor, to Council Members, to the public, to the staff, and to everyone. He asked for a motion approving the Rules of Decorum.

An unidentified person in the audience commented that many people still do not have head phones.  He asked that this be repeated in Spanish so that everybody can understand.

Council Member Nateras asked if a head count could be taken of how many people needed head phones.  Council Member Aguilar (in Spanish) asked the people to raise their hand if they do not have head phones and cannot listen to the Spanish translation.  

        Mayor Varela (in Spanish) asked the people in the audience to raise their hand if they needed assistance with the head phones.

       Mohani Thiara translated into Punjabi.

Council Member Nateras (in Spanish) asked the people that speak a little bit of English to hand over their head set to those that absolutely do not understand any English.  She said we only have 120 head phones, so we would like to make sure everyone has one.

       Council Member Espinoza (in Spanish) asked don’t we have 170 headphones?

Council Member Nateras (in Spanish) said she knew the school lent us 120 headphones, but maybe the City Manager borrowed more.

         City Manager Warne said we have 170 head phones.             

          Council Member Espinoza (in Spanish) asked the people in the audience to check in the back of the room for any available head phones.

Mayor Varela asked the Spanish and Punjabi translators if they were able to translate the  statement that was read by him.  The translators responded that they were able to translate the statement.

Mayor Varela stated once again that this rule of decorum applies to everyone including the City Council, staff, and the community.  He again requested that the City Council  adopt this motion.  He asked Council Member Nateras if she made a motion.

An unidentified man in the audience stated that he felt that Mayor Pro Tem Vierra needed to be present.  He said that Mayor Pro Tem Vierra had missed the last three meetings and is getting paid a $150 a meeting or $300 a month.  He asked why Mayor Pro Tem Vierra was not at the meeting.  He is at work everyday and at the snack shack every Friday night.  He is here to serve our community.  We voted for him, and so he needs to be here.

Mayor Varela commented that we need to make a motion and move on.  He said we have a motion from Council Member Nateras and asked for a second to the motion.  Mayor Varela said this rule of decorum is so we can have a productive meeting without disruption and without yelling.  This rule is so that we can have an orderly meeting.  He again asked for a second to the motion.  The motion failed due to lack of a second.      

Mayor Varela told the people applauding in the audience that they were applauding not to have a productive meeting.  There are laws that the Mayor and City Council must abide by in order to have open meetings.  He asked the people not to applaud because there is going to be yelling. 

City Attorney Hobbs reminded City Council Members, the public and the law enforcement officers in the room that under State law it is a misdemeanor to substantially disrupt a public meeting.  That tool remains in place.  He said the Mayor, as the presiding officer of the meeting, has the authority to make and keep order at the meeting.  The City  Council, under the Brown Act, has authority to eject members of the public, City Council, or staff if they are unduly disruptive.  There are tools already in place.  He stated that this rule of decorum was designed to bring a local rule and formalize that for the City Council.  The fact that that the rule was not adopted tonight does not mean that procedures in State law do not remain in place.

     5.  Public Information and Comment on Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste Rates and Discussion Concerning Changing Water Rate Tiers and Eliminating Current Tiered System and Replacing it With a Single-Rate Tier of 35,000 Gallons of Water Per Household Per Month.


City Manager Warne made a Power Point presentation. (See attached Power Point Presentation).  He said that occasionally there are very unpopular decisions that need to be made and occasionally there are very difficult decisions that need to be made, but they do need to be made.  The adjustment of the water, wastewater, and the solid waste rates is one of those unpopular and difficult decisions.  City Manager Warne said that he wanted to talk tonight about why this decision was necessary, the process that the City went through to adjust these rates and conclude on some of the positives things that are happening in our community. 

City Manager Warne said that we all need to face financial reality.  He said this means everyone, including the City Council, City employees and residents. The water rates have not been adjusted since 1995, and the City simply cannot provide clean water to you at the same rate in 2009 (almost 2010) as it did in 1995.  It is impossible.  He said that everyone knows that the cost of everything rises over time.  Who here tonight is paying the same amount for their electricity or natural gas from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) as they paid 10 years ago?  City Manager Warne said that he knew that his rates  have been adjusted upward.  Merced Irrigation District (MID) has also adjusted their electrical rates recently.  This is just one example.  The time has come for us to take action.

City Manager Warne said that we need to cut up the City credit card.  The City has been borrowing money to cover its water, wastewater and solid waste operating costs.  It can no longer do that.  We need to be aware that, while this is a difficult decision, let us try to keep the politics out of it and make a business decision. 

City Manager Warne once again stated that the water rates have not been raised since 1995—over 14 years ago.  The 12-month net loss for the Water Enterprise Fund on June 30, 2009, was $451,042.  The total Water Enterprise Fund operating negative cash balance on June 30, 2009, was $1,294,854.  These numbers have been provided by the City’s independent financial auditor in the City of Livingston Independent Audit Report.  The City has an independent financial audit done each year and the auditor is here tonight.  He will address the audience once City Manager Warne has finished his presentation.

City Manager Warne showed a Power Point slide depicting continuing losses in the Water Enterprise Fund if water rates were not adjusted.  He said that this is what would occur if the water rates were not adjusted.  The City will sink slowly into bankruptcy and will literally run out of cash. There is “red ink” as far as the eye can see.  This is what would have happened if the water rates had not been adjusted. 

City Manager Warne said that we have to face financial reality and the financial reality is this:  The City was borrowing money for operating costs.  It is just like your household expenses.  You can go out every month and use your credit card for household expenses (to buy groceries, electricity, or to do whatever you are going to do).  You can do that for awhile, but eventually you have to pay off the credit card.  We have reached that point in the City of Livingston.  We can no longer sell a service to the people for less than what it costs us to provide that service.

The City has lost grant funds because its water rates are not consistent with the water rates in other communities.  When we apply for grant funds, the one question they ask the City in their applications every time is this:  “What are your water rates?”  He said the City of Livingston is not competitive because state regulators and the people who give these grant funds expect the community to make some financial effort to do infrastructure improvements within the community.  They do not look favorably upon a community that tries to rely solely upon State and Federal help for infrastructure improvements.

 

City Manger Warne said that there was no money to meet new State and Federal regulatory mandates and no money to clean up the City’s water.  He asked how many people in the room have turned on their tap recently gotten this out of their water system?  City Manager Warne showed a bottle of discolored water.  He then asked the people to raise their hand.  He asked the audience if they knew the source of this discolored water.  It comes from the old, rusted galvanized water pipes that were placed in the ground in the 1920’s, the 1930’s and 1940’s.  As the water moves around the system, it scours the old, rusted pipes and creates the discolored water.

City Manager Warne stated that staff receives phone calls at City Hall all the time about the discolored water.  The callers ask, “How come my water is dirty or discolored?  The reason is because there is no money to fix this problem.

City Manager Warne asked the public how long this problem has been going on.  An unidentified lady in the audience responded, “Many years.”

He said that the staff was looking at the City Council minutes in about 1974.  The minutes stated that a citizen had come to City Council meeting and complained about the discolored or dirty water.  He asked the public:  “How many City Council Members, Mayors, and City Managers have you had that have not addressed this critical problem?”  City Manager Warne stated that he thought it was unconscionable and criminal that the people of Livingston have to drink this water or bathe their children in this water.  If action is not taken and rates are not adjusted, he promised the people that this problem that has been going on for decades in the City of Livingston is going to continue.  Next year when you turn on your water, it is going to look the same.  In three years when you turn on your water, it is going to look same.  In five years, when you turn on your water  it is going to look the same. We have children at the schools that are drinking this stuff.

City Manager Warne said it is time to take action and not allow our children to drink this stuff, bathe in this stuff, or otherwise give this stuff to anybody.  He said that there is absolutely no money to clean up the water.  In addition, there is no money for system upgrades, repairs, or improvements.  The water system is just like your car.  If you never fix your car, what ultimately happens to it?  It breaks, doesn’t it?   The same thing is true with the water system.  We need to have funds to be able to deliver water to the public, and to upgrade, improve, and repair the water system. 

City Manager Warne said that the City has been borrowing the money from the General Fund.  Government accounting is much different than accounting in your business.  The City has restricted accounting funds where it deposits money for restricted purposes.  The City has 29 separate accounting funds.  The best way to describe this is that the City operates 29 different businesses.  The City operates a water business, a wastewater business, a solid waste business, and a gasoline tax business where the City collects money to maintain roads.  The City also collects park development impact fees, and fire development impact fees and deposits them into separate accounting funds.  Each one of these accounting funds is restricted except for the General Fund.  This is where the City has been borrowing the money.  It can no longer do this.  For example, gasoline tax money cannot pay for water expenses, pickup the garbage or buy a police car.  It must be used for streets.

City Manager Warne showed a Power Point slide containing information about the General Fund for Fiscal Year 2010.  He said that 63.4% of General Fund expenditures are for the Police Department.  9.9% of the General Fund expenditures are for the Public Works Department, which includes street and park maintenance.  7.9% of the General Fund expenditures are for the Recreation Department which provides baseball and other recreation programs.  If we do not do something about the water rates, these other services such as police, fire and recreation are going to be impacted.  There is no way around it.  Instead of raising the water rates, the City could cut police officers, stop providing a baseball program or quit cutting the grass in the parks.  The General Fund where these services are provided is where the money has been borrowed from.  The City no longer can do this.  The Water Enterprise Fund must pay for itself.

City Manager Warne asked, “What did the City do?”  A nationwide consulting firm called, Raftelis Financial Consultants (RFC) was hired.  The firm was chosen and hired by the City Attorney’s office.  They have done over 200 water rate and wastewater rate studies in the State of California.  The people in these firms know what they are doing.  They are a nation-wide rate consulting firm and have over 500 clients nation-wide.  City Manager Warne showed a Power Point slide showing the rate studies they have done in the State of California.

City Manager Warne stated that the financial reality is that the City must pay for operating costs, State and Federal regulatory costs, debt service costs, and capital costs to upgrade, repair and improve the water system.  He said an example of the operating costs would be power costs.  It costs the City approximately $500,000 each year just to pay the power bill to operate the City’s wells.

City Manager Warne showed the bottle of discolored water and said that the estimated capital expenditure cost for replacing the aging water pipes and fixing this problem is $4.2 million.

       The City must have funds to cover State and Federal regulatory costs.  City Manager Warne said that the City has been informed that it needs to do more filtering in one of its wells for manganese.  Manganese affects the color and the odor of the water.  The State has told the City that it needs to do more filtering of the water that comes from this well.  The cost to meet this State regulatory requirement is $1 million.  The City has no money to meet this regulatory requirement from the State of California.  The State of California has already informed the City that if it does not move forward to solve this problem, they are going to issue a notice-of-violation and ultimately there will be fines.  This is an example of the regulatory costs that the City must meet.

City Manager Warne said that the City has included a capital improvements plan as part of its rate study.  He showed a Power Point Slide outlining the capital improvements plan.  He said that he was not going to go through every item in the capital improvements plan, but he did say that the City needs to take care of the water system and upgrade the system to provide clean water to the people. 

City Manager Warne stated that before the City can raise the water rates it must comply with Proposition 218.  Proposition 218 approved by the voters around 1994-1996 requires that the City develop a five-year water financial plan to insure that water revenues cover the cost of providing the service.  Each customer class (residential, commercial, or industrial) can only be charged their proportional share of the cost of providing service to them.  The rate study completed by Raftelis Financial Consultants (RFC) contains a financial plan along with proposed rate structures to pay for the operating costs, regulatory costs, capital costs and debt service costs.  The water rate study contained three rate scenarios and illustrated the customer impacts of each scenario.  City Manager Warne showed a Power Point slide showing the three rate scenarios and another Power Point slide illustrating the customer impacts of each rate scenario.  He said that study showed in detail what the customer impact would be if the resident used 10,000 gallons, 15,000 gallons, 20,000 gallons or 30,000 gallons.  

City Manager Warne outlined the public notice process the City must go through to raise the water rates.

City Manager Warne said that after a rate study is completed, the law requires that the City send out Proposition 218 public hearing notices to everyone receiving water service in the community.  Once the notices are sent out, a 45-day protest period begins.  At the conclusion of the protest period, the City Council must hold a public hearing similar to the one being held this evening.  After the public hearing, the protests are tabulated.  If less than 50% of the water users protest the rate increase, the City Council can move forward and adopt new water rates.

City Manager Warne outlined the steps the City took in order to comply with the law and raise the rates.

He said that the City completed the water rate study.  On February 17, 2009, the rate consultant presented a Power Point presentation to the City Council on the rate study outlining the proposed rate scenarios.  City staff requested authorization to send out the Proposition 218 public hearing notices.  The City Council voted 5-0 to authorize that those notices be sent out.

The City Attorney’s office then prepared the Proposition 218 notices announcing the public hearing and outlining how protests could be submitted.  The notices went out between March 4 and March 6.  The 45-day protest period began.  There were two public notices sent.  One notice was sent using address labels prepared from the City’s utility billing customer list.  Another notice was sent out using address labels from property owner addresses obtained from Merced County.  A renter that pays for his or her water would have received one notice.  A property owner paying the utility bill would have received two notices.

City Manager Warne said that on March 26, 2009, the City Council held a public information meeting on the water rate scenarios.  Notices were mailed out to the community in three languages.  The City’s rate consultant reviewed the rate studies.  Questions were answered and public comments were taken.

On April 21, 2009, the City Council held its Proposition 218 public hearing.  The City Council received public comment and written protests in accordance with the law.  At that meeting, the City Council voted 4-1 to adopt the new solid waste rates that you currently are paying.  The Proposition 218 water public hearing and wastewater public hearing was continued to May 5, 2009.  The protest period for the water rates and the wastewater rates was extended to May 5, 2009, so more people could protest the water and wastewater rates if they desired.

On May 5, 2009, the City Council took public comment again at the public hearing.  After comments from the public, the City Council voted to close the Proposition 218 public hearing.  The City Council then tabulated the written protests.  There were 401 written protests.  This means that less than 50% of the people or the water accounts had protested.  Therefore, the City Council could move forward and adopt new rates under Proposition 218 law.

On July 7, 2009, there was an additional public hearing held under the 1941 Revenue Bond law.  This public hearing was published three times in the newspaper.  The City Council took public comment.  After the public comment, the City Council voted 3-2 to adopt the new water rates and new wastewater rates.

On October 20, the City Council again listened to several hours of public comment.  Many of you were there.  Tonight, once again, we have a public meeting where we are reviewing the rate process.  We are going to have comments by the City’s independent financial auditor and listen to your comments.

City Manager Warne stated that the City Council adopted Water Rate Scenario #3 with a 15% reduction for the first six months.  He said that he would not review the rates this evening because it is fairly complicated, but staff would be happy to meet with anybody to discuss the rates and their bill in detail.

City Manager Warne said that he would now talk about the wastewater rates.  Council Member Espinoza interrupted City Manager Warne and said that this meeting is only for the water rates and not the wastewater rates.  City Manager Warne responded that this meeting has been agendized as a public meeting for all three rates.

City Manager Warne stated that the City has had huge financial deficits under the old wastewater rates, and it would continue to have huge financial deficits in the future had the rates not been raised. 

Here is the reason why.  The wastewater rates have not been raised since 2002.  The net 12-month loss for the Domestic Wastewater Enterprise Fund on June 30, 2009, was $442,686.  The total Domestic Wastewater Enterprise Fund operating negative cash balance on June 30, 2009, was $892,378.

City did a Proposition 218 Wastewater Rate Study that was completed by Raftelis Financial Consultants (RFC).  The rate study included a financial plan, three rate scenarios, and customer impacts for each scenario.  City Manager Warne showed a Power Point slide that showed each of the rates scenarios.  The City Council adopted Rate Scenario #1 with a 15% reduction for the first six months.

       City Manager Warne said that he would now talk about the solid waste rates.  

City Manager Warne stated that the City has had huge financial deficits under the old solid waste rates, and it would continue to have huge financial deficits in the future had the rates not been raised. 

Here is the reason why.  The solid waste rates have not been raised since 2003.  The net 12-month loss for the Sanitation Enterprise Fund on June 30, 2009, was $141,494.  The total Sanitation Enterprise Fund operating negative cash balance on June 30, 2009, was $595,363.   

City did a Proposition 218 Wastewater Rate Study that was completed by Raftelis Financial Consultants (RFC).  The rate study included a financial plan, three rate scenarios, and customer impacts for each scenario.  City Manager Warne showed a Power Point slide that showed each of the rates scenarios.  The City Council adopted Rate Scenario #3 with a 15% reduction for the first six months.

City Manager Warne asked what happens if we add the losses of all three Enterprise Funds together?  He said that the City is losing money in the Water Enterprise Fund, Domestic Wastewater Enterprise Fund and the Sanitation Enterprise Fund.  He said the total financial losses exceed $1 million dollars if you take the 12-month loss of $451,000 in the Water Enterprise Fund, $442,000 in the Domestic Wastewater Enterprise Fund and $141,000 in the Sanitation Enterprise Fund.  These numbers come from the independent financial auditor’s report. 

City Manager Warne asked how long can the City loose over $1 million in cash per year?  How long can it loose over $1 million per year and not ultimately sink into financial crisis and into bankruptcy?  The City was burning through cash.

He said that it is time for all of us as difficult as this is, as hard as the economic times are and as politically difficult that this decision is, to cut up the City credit card.  It is time that the City Council quit borrowing for operating costs and face the financial reality that it had to do something.  It is time to clean up that dirty water.  It is time to take care of those State and Federal mandates in order to avoid fines from the State and Federal government.  Let us quit playing politics with this issue.

Remember the City cannot provide water at the same rate as 1995.  It is impossible, City Manager Warne said.

City Manager Warne said that since he had five more minutes, he was going to briefly report on a couple of the positive things that are happening where the Livingston City Council and City staff are looking out for you and gotten accomplished. 

He said that Wal-Mart is on its way.  This new retail development will provide 450 jobs to the people of Livingston with an average wage of $11.80 an hour.  The City is doing the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) right now and is negotiating the development agreement with Wal-Mart.  This should come to the City Council in March.

Council Member Aguilar interrupted City Manager Warne and said that the Wal-Mart report is not on the agenda.  She said that are talking about the water and thought the people have waited long enough.  She said it was a great Power Point presentation, but thought the City Council needed to move on.  The last time he made a presentation, half of the people were gone.  She said that the City Council needed to continue with the meeting so it could decide what is was going to do, whether Mayor Pro Tem Vierra is here or not.  She thought at least 50% of these people had already seen this Power Point presentation and got letters in the mail.  They need to know what we are going to do tonight.

Council Member Espinoza said we all want Wal-Mart and we are glad that it is coming. Wal-Mart is not on the agenda. We are here for the water right now.  They added the wastewater and the solid waste to the agenda.  We need to move forward on this.  It looks like nothing is going to happen because Council Member Vierra is not here.  This is two meetings in a row.  He said that we will see what happens.

City Manager Warne said his objective was to briefly mention the positive things that are happening, because there are a lot of positive things happening in the community. 

Council Member Espinoza said he knows, but it is not on the agenda.  He said that we are here for the water.

Mayor Varela stated the City Manager, he has asked the City Manager if he would go ahead and just highlight a couple of things, which is okay.  If you do not want to hear it, we will move forward, but thank you very much. 

Mayor Varela said we have the presentation from the City’s independent financial auditor.  Council Member Aguilar said that the auditor had already presented the last time we were here.

Mayor Varela said the City’s independent financial auditor is going to be part of this process because the people have to understand how the City is making its investments.

       Council Member Aguilar said she would like to make a comment before the auditor comes up.  Mayor Varela said she could make her comment.

Council Member Aguilar said she knew that we are going to have a presentation by the City’s independent financial auditor.  She said that a lot of numbers were going to be presented, just like in the City Manager’s Power Point presentation.  She noticed one of the slides talked about net loss in the Water Enterprise Fund of $451,042 for the period that ended June 30, 2009.  She said that later in the evening the City Council was going to talk about the warrants.  She said that the City Attorney had been paid close to $300,000 over the last three months.  If we continue the way we are going, that deficit is not going to come down.  The only thing that is going to go up is your water bill and the lawsuits that we have pending.  This is what worries her. These numbers look great and it sounds really critical.  We really need to decide what we are going to do.

Council Member Espinoza said that he reviewed the warrants yesterday.  They included $83,000 for attorney’s fees, including $59,000 of that just for fighting Foster Farms.  Council Member Espinoza said that we paid $300,000 for the last three to four months. There is no discussion on where we are with the lawsuit, but yet the bills keep piling up.  He said that money is paid to attorneys, and there is no comment to us on what is going on with the lawsuit.  The Mayor decided to vote on a water rate increase for his employer.  That is his decision.  Council Member Espinoza said he is not trying to put the Mayor down, but he does not think that he should be voting on a paycheck to his employer, which is the majority of the attorney’s fees.

Council Member Nateras asked members of the audience that know that she speaks Spanish, for forgiveness.  She will make her statements in English so that they can be recorded for the record.  She said that there are translators here tonight to translate the English comments into Spanish and Punjibi, as she promised the people.

Council Member Nateras said that Council Member Aguilar has only been in office for one year.  She has also been in office for a year, but she was City Clerk for four years.  Council Member Nateras said that the attorney fees are nothing new, and this is what we have been paying all along.  She said that Council Member Aguilar’s emphasis on the attorney fees because of the situation is wrong.  The City Manager was only trying to explain to everybody in the audience why the City Council had to increase the water rates.  Although the other item was not on the agenda, the City Manager just wanted to let the public know about the upcoming City projects.  This was for the people that do not know about the projects.  She asked Mayor Varela to go on with the agenda.

        Mayor Varela said next we have the City’s independent’s presentation.

       Bryant Jolley, CPA, the City’s Independent Financial Auditor, stated that he is pleased to be here this evening to discuss some of the items relating to the financial position of the City.  The City hires his independent certified public accounting (CPA) firm to complete an annual review of the City’s financial records.  He said that he made a report to the City Council at their last regular meeting, in which he stated that his independent certified public accounting firm expressed an unqualified opinion on the City’s financial presentation.  

       Mr. Jolley said that his firm reviews the various accounting funds as part of their work.  As Mr. Warne indicated, there are probably about 30 accounting funds, most of which are restricted other than the General Fund.  His firm has been doing the City’s independent financial audit for about three or four years.  His firm audits 13 cities, large water districts and these sorts of things.  He said that he is familiar with these things and sees them all the time.

Mr. Jolley said the first time he walked into the City of Livingston, he was astounded at the deficits that the water, sewer and solid waste enterprise funds were incurring.  We began making recommendations, as part of our annual financial audit, that rates would have to be increased and/or operating expenses dramatically reduced.  This has been going on for a number of years.  He said that he was happy to see the City Council was finally taking action now.

       Mr. Jolley said that there can be a lot of discussion regarding how much and the methodology of it.  The major reasons he had issues, being strictly independent of the City, being outside the political situations and not being a citizen of the community, were basically very fundamental.

        Mr. Jolley referred to Mr. Warne’s credit card analogy and borrowing.  This is what the City has been doing, but its way beyond what he normally sees.  At this point the combined cash deficit in your enterprise funds is about $6 million.  The current cash surplus in the General Fund is a little over $2 million.  So that leaves only one conclusion and that is that the City is borrowing from other—borrowing cash from other restricted funds.  The only fund you have is the General Fund that you can borrow or use, somewhat discretionary type usage.  With that situation, if Federal, State, County regulators truly knew where you were—what’s would happened is–the professional terminology is you have impaired your funds.  You are now using funds that the government has entrusted to the City’s care to be used for specific purposes.  You have ignored their regulations and are now using it to subsidize water, refuse, and sewer rates.  He said that he has seen this before.  It has been quite a few years.  It had to be many other things, usually General Fund deficits.  Cities are incapable of balancing their books.  Perhaps, public safety is overspent.  It was about 20 years ago when one of my cities impaired their funds and the State did cease sending money to them until that city could pull their situation together and step up to the regulatory requirements.

        Mr. Jolley said that this is way beyond a minor type of problem.  He has seen it for many years.  He is not sure why rates were not raised many years ago.  Just like anything, it is much easier to have rates go up every three to four years as opposed to waiting 14 years– and then being hit with a rate increase all at once.

        Mr. Jolley said that he understood the concern of the citizens, but you are “between a rock and a hard spot.”  He said that he wanted to give credence to what Mr. Warne had said.  Livingston is basically the same size as the other cities he audits in other places.  He has seen these cities getting anywhere from $2 million and $4 million in grant monies every four or five years for either water or sewer projects.  Grant funds are free monies, usually from the Federal and State governments.  Mr. Jolley said that he has not seen this happen in Livingston.  As Mr. Warne said, the federal and state government will not give Livingston this money if you do not raise your rates and put them in compliance with what they are doing.  Even if the City could get a grant or low-interest loan at this point,  the State or Federal government would require, as part of their grant and/or loan agreement, for you to become self-sufficient in your enterprise funds.  This is basically the steps that are being done here.  

       Mr. Jolley said that he is somewhat independent.  He does not want to get involved in the amounts, or if it is too much, too little or anything else.  This is why the citizens of California passed Proposition 218 to make sure that administrators and legislators do not raise the rates unduly high. With that in mind, your system and your City will just rust away and disappear in no time at all.  He said that it is as if you were making your house payment with a credit card.

       Mr. Jolley said that you have two problems.  You must raise rates to break even (which you overspent $1 million last year) and you now have to pay back $6 million for past spending over the past 10 years.  This was caused by rates not being raised in the past for any number of reasons.

       He said that if he sounded somewhat incredulous, it was because this should not be happening.  He did not have the history to know why past management and City Council members did not raise the rates because they required raising for many years here.   Now the pain is substantial.  He understands this, but you have to raise rates to pay back the deficit and break even.

       Mr. Jolley said that, more importantly, there is so much money given out there.  For you to fix this rusty water, you are not going to be able to do it on regular rates.  A $3 million, $4, or $5 million project will not be given any grant money until your rates are compliant with State regulations.  These rates must be based on studies done by a firm that is reputable and knows what they are doing.

       Mr. Jolley said that you will not be able to get out from under the present situation, even if there was a disaster, emergency, or legislation where they came and gave you money.  The very first requirement that would be imposed would be that the rates would need to be raised automatically.  He thinks Livingston is bypassing many opportunities for free money by not getting the rates where they should be.  The rates are pretty much the same throughout the rest of California.  If it were not for the free Federal and State monies, most of the water rates would be $100 to $200 a month.  Almost all communities are heavily subsidized through Federal grants or low interest loans.  This is something that the City needs to take advantage of.  Every dollar you might pay in, you might be getting three dollars back through the grant process.  He said that he did not have any other comments, unless there are any questions from Council or the public.

Someone in the audience asked how much did they pay you?  Mr. Jolley replied that he has not been paid anything.  He said he usually comes to meetings like this at no charge  because they are on a fixed fee for the audit contract.

Someone in the audience shouted how much do you get paid for the audit?  Mr. Jolley said $40,000 for the audit.  Someone in the audience shouted how many years had he been doing this?  Mr. Jolley replied that he did not know and would have to check on it.  He thought it might be three or four years.

Council Member Nateras said it might seem a little silly, but there seems to be perception in the community that the City manipulates the numbers to make this look like we are in the negative.  She asked Mr. Jolley, as a professional auditor, did he think that this could be done?

Mr. Jolley responded no.  It could always be attempted, but not based on our audit requirements and how we conduct the audit.  The City’s books are open to anybody.  There is some discretion at the management level as to how certain costs might be allocated one way or the other.  These would account for minor variances, but not the type of monies we are talking about here.  He said even if funds were being moved from one to the other type thing, it could only come out of the restrictive funds.  So it really does not accomplish what anybody might make a statement about.  Theoretically, it just does not work like that.  Mr. Jolley said he could spend a lot of time going into the technical aspects of it, but, again, that is why the City hires his firm.  His firm has no vested interest in the financial affairs of the City, one way or the other way.  We are paid to come in and call it the way it is, whether or not the City Council likes it or the City likes it.  He said that he might lose a contract over it, but he has his license to protect and that is a whole lot more important to him than one particular city.

      Council Member Espinoza asked when a city decides to spend money without the majority of the Council voting on it, or spending $60,000 to have attorneys at an election site, how do you categorize that?  Where would that be put because if there is no decision, how can the City Manager authorize that, and where would it go?

Mr. Jolley responded that, without knowing the details, generally all warrants are presented to the City Council for approval and payment.  All warrant registers need the majority of the City Council to approve it.   He said if it was not a budget type item, because that is the whole essence of the budgetary process of the City, it allows the City Council to present their budget and the public to review it and make public comments.  Mr. Jolley said there are emergency items such as litigation or emergencies that occur that might require budget amendments, but he assumes that all warrant registers are always approved by the City Council.  This is where the authorization comes through–the approval process.

Council Member Nateras said she had a question for Council Member Espinoza.  She asked Council Member Espinoza if the question that he just asked pertained to their term in office.

       Council Member Espinoza replied that was just a general question.

       Council Member Nateras said we are talking about the past fiscal year that we have been in office.  As far as she knew that particular question did not pertain to us.  Council Member Espinoza said, “Did I mention any names?”  Council Member Nateras said that this was just a question.

A person in the audience stated that we are talking about 14 years and not just this year.  The person said that the City Manager talked about using the credit card for 14 years.  Council Member Nateras said that we have been in office for a year and we are trying to fix the problem.  

Mayor Varela said at this time we are going to go ahead and open the meeting for citizens’ comments.  He asked Mr. Jolley if he was through.  Mr. Jolly stated that he was done.

       City Attorney Hobbs noted the comments are limited to three minutes please.

Angelina Torrez, P.O. Box 381, Livingston, commented that on July 7, you talk about politics; you say this is political.  It is not political–maybe, maybe not.  On July 7, you decided to fire an attorney that we had for two years because she was holding back the voting.  She kept on saying that we needed four votes in order to pass these water rates.  There were not four votes because two of your Council Members, Ms. Aguilar and Mr. Espinoza were against these water rate hikes.  But you kept on postponing the vote and postponing the vote because you needed that extra vote.  Then you found an attorney who found a loop hole, some kind of resolution where you could change the voting where you only needed three votes.  Ms. Torrez said you got your three:   Ms. Nateras, Mr. Varela and Mr. Vierra.  This is how you got this passed.  We kept telling you that we knew that we needed to raise the water rates, but we did not want them to be raised the way you did it.  Ms. Torrez said we kept giving you solutions and you kept turning them down.  She said that Mr. Vierra, one of the main ones that voted for this, has not showed up at any of the meetings we have invited him to.  She said if he was able to vote for these raises, he should be sitting right there and taking whatever we have to tell him.  Ms. Torrez said she is just saying the way you raised it, these tiers, you know after 6,000 gallons you get charged extra.  That is unfair, our community cannot afford that. You need to look at what you are doing and you need to find another resolution where we can use the amount of water for a certain price so we can bathe, wash and feed our children.

Ana Maria Galvan Rodriguez, no address given, (in Spanish) said she was happy that we are all here tonight.  She said that this is the first time that she has seen everyone here.  Ms. Rodriguez said she has been coming to the meetings since 2008.  In the past, she noted Martha Nateras was the one who would accept the protests and Mr. Rodrigo Espinoza was also here before.  She said she came on March 15, 2009, the first time she made a verbal and written protest.  The next day, a secretary from the City Hall office called her.  She asked, “Is this Mrs. Ana Maria Galvan Rodriguez?”  She responded, “Yes, I am.”  She said, “I am calling on behalf of Mayor Daniel Varela.”  She said, “Yes, what happened.”  She said, “Mr. Varela says the form they gave you was not correct.” She said, “Oh, yes, I know.”  She said, “Do you pay for the water?  Whose name is on the water bill?”  Ms. Rodriguez responded, “The water was in her son’s name, Jesus Martinez, but today the water was in my name.” The secretary said, “Mr. Varela would like to speak with you.”  She responded, “Fine, he can call me when he wishes to.”  No one ever called her again.  Ms. Rodriguez said the other day a Council Member said that I was crying.  She did not cry.  She simply commented that she did not agree with the water increase, but she did not cry. She does not agree with the water increase.  She knows you are going through bad times or that there is no money.  She asked, “Do you know Mr. Daniel Varela and City Hall manager what your employees do during work hours?   Do you know?  You don’t know because you do not see how they are working.  You don’t know. You have more people now than before.”   Ms. Rodriguez said her son worked at City Hall before and you didn’t have as many people.  Now you have more.  She has seen 15 people at the Walnut Sports Complex just standing there like dolls.  She has seen workers going to buy pizza at Mayrita’s Restaurant in their City work trucks.  The fellow who reads the meters drives a City truck.  While he walks from house to house, he leaves the City truck running.  She says she has seen him.  Ms. Rodriguez said she has seen your workers.  If there is not enough money to pay for the water, and you want us to pay so much money for it, it is very simple, cut down the wages.

Rosa Gomez, 2321 Burgundy Drive, mentioned that the water rate hike is supposed to help us get better pipes.  Obviously, we can learn something from the money that the City receives.  She said the first thing on the calendar tonight was the fact that we had received grant money to build a basketball court.  It took us four years to finally decide that they are going to use funds that have been given to them.  They could have been used for the youth of our community to have some sort of recreation.  Yet, those funds have been sitting around.  She asked if our money is just going to sit around or are we actually going to get clean pipes so that we can have clean water?  Ms. Gomez commented that on  Main Street the signs say, “A great place to invest.”   She asked who has invested in this town?  Who has given our residents clean water so that we do not have to purchase from Alhambra Water or whoever else comes to deliver your clean water so that you can actually drink it?  She said the scenarios were put in the newspaper and were sent to us to our home.  They were put in the newspaper, but the City Manager right now said, “Oh, I am not going to go over the scenario because it is complicated.”  Ms. Gomez said considering that they are the ones that were purposing this, how are the people of the City supposed to understand something that is complicated for the City Manager to explain to us?  She understands that the water rates need to go up.  PG&E goes up, MID goes up, but when she has a problem with PG&E, they come out and fix it and they do not charge her extra for it.  

Joe Orosco, 860 East Avenue, stated that, like the lady before him, he understands

prices need to be raised.  As we know, everything goes up, but he had a concern.  He was behind two months because he could not afford the new raises.  It was $160.  He got a 48-hour notice and went to the City and paid $100.  He owed them a balance of $60.  Mr. Orosco asked if that would be enough to keep his water on.  The City replied, “No, they needed the total balance.”  He said he did not have it.  He said the City was going to his house in two hours.  So he drove his car and parked it over the box so the City could not get to his water.  He said when they arrived, they could not turn his water off.  That saved him a $35 reconnection fee and he came up with the balance the next day.  Mr. Orosco said his concern is people that cannot afford this increase.  He said all of a sudden their water is going to get turned off over $60, especially if you have children in the house.  That is a concern for him.

 
Jose Ojeda, no address given, (in Spanish) said we are all here for the same reason. We all want good,      clean water, but you also have to understand that we cannot pay all the money that you are asking for.  He commented that like the man said to cut our credit cards.  We do not have jobs, how can we have credit cards?   Adding to what the lady said about those people that work for the City.  Mr. Ojeda said today was his day off and he saw somebody checking the water meter.  While he was watching, that person was talking on the cell phone while he was lifting the meter cover with a metal rod.  He never stopped talking on the cell phone during the time he was checking the meter.  Mr. Ojeda said he did not know if this is right or not.  He would like to see one of you here tonight living like any of us for only three months, making the salary we are making, and see if you can live like we are living.  Mr. Ojeda said he heard Margarita Aguilar has only been here for one year, and he would like her to stay with us much longer.

Mario Mendoza, no address given, had some comments from the last meeting for Council Member Nateras.  You know you started pointing fingers at people from the previous Council.  Instead of pointing fingers, why don’t you find a solution to this problem that we are having today, not point fingers at Rodrigo, Ms. Aguilar and so on–the people that are against you guys.  At the meeting that we had on November 4, you guys never showed up.   He said Ms. Nateras was supposedly at the Relay for Life which was a lie. Vierra was sick with diarrhea and the Mayor, who knows what.  As for the City Manager, there is no excuse because we are the residents of Livingston.  We pay you over $12,000 a month.  That makes you our employee.  You should have the dignity to show up and address us at least.  Mr. Mendoza said he was here to say that our committee is finalizing the paperwork for the recall.  He said the next time that we invite you guys for a meeting is because we are going to need your signature to kick these people out.  A lot of people have been coming up to him and complaining that the people that work at the City are kind of rude when they go and pay the water bills, especially when they have questions regarding the bill.  Supposedly they do not speak Spanish, but they do speak Spanish and that is kind of rude.   Mr. Mendoza said he hopes you guys do that to me or my family to see what happens.  We pay our bills and he expects you guys to treat them with dignity not degrade them when they go there and try to pay their bills. 

Anna Nava, no address given, said some of you saw her in the last meeting which most of you were not here, but she had a comment to say to the City Manager.  He said that we don’t want our cops to be taken down because we are not going to have money.  She has     a solution for that.  She prefers to pay the cops that are taking care of us than somebody that is not here for the meetings.  She said they are here for us, and that is why the City is so well protected.   She said another thing that she has to say to the Mayor.  She has left him so many messages to call her, but he never responded back.  Ms. Nava said to look at her.  She does have pants on today to come and tell him that he said in the last meeting in July when the water passed that it didn’t matter what we think anyway.  You were the ones that decided.  You are wrong, because if it was not for these people here, you guys would not be up there in the first place.  We chose all of you to be up there because we thought it was for the best.  Unfortunately, we made a mistake.  We have two wonderful people which are Margarita and Rodrigo that have always been here for all of the meetings and try to find a solution.  Ms. Nava said she does not have anything against you raising the water; she just thinks that the better way for you to do it is to help us in another way.

        Surdev Johal , no address given, (in Punjabi) said he has lived in Livingston for 34 years and whenever the City wants a vote, what have you done to help us so far?  Whenever you want us to vote you tell us you will do whatever we want.  Now we are here.  What are you doing for us?   That is all he wanted to say.  When you want votes, you will promise to do things, but now you don’t.

Gurpal Samra, 1034 J Street, congratulated the three members of the Council that were present on their first year anniversary.  He bet that they did not think they were going to go through this one year from today, from the time they got on.  He thanked the City Manager for a great sermon, but said he left out a few facts.  When he gave us the presentation, how come he did not tell us that we had two studies done?  There was a study done in 2007.  Why would that study have more capital improvement projects, but lower rates than this study did?  He said it was never explained why that was done.  Secondly, Mr. Samra stated that the City admitted in its own presentations that an average family uses 22,000 gallons a month.  He said if they know that 80% of you are going to use 22,000 gallons a month, why set that rate at 6,000?   Because they want the extra money from you folks, and that is why you get the rates so high.  Mr. Samra said that in the slide he gave all these wonderful things, but left out how, when the former City Attorney refused to allow a vote because she felt that it was illegal, they could not vote.  So they fired the attorney.  They also got other legal opinions, but they never made those legal opinions public. He asked why not?  We all paid for it?  They belong to us.  We do not know how many opinions they got before they got the one they liked and then hired that other City Attorney.  What was that all about?  That was nothing more than just to get extra money from people.  Mr. Samra said we went to all these meetings, not one of us objected to the increase.  We know they are inevitable. We know it happens and everybody said, “Please we need to do this in a proper way.”  And the way they did it, it was what the people were objecting to.  This was done nothing other than to maximize money for them.  They have never failed to tell you how much money the City has spent in lawsuits ever since this City Manager has been here.  He asked why don’t you tell us the number of dollars that have been spent on legal fees ever since the City Manager has been here?    He said that he did not have anything against Council Member Martha Nateras and Mayor Daniel Varela.  If you are going to keep listening to a carpet bagger from Coalinga, this is what is going to happen to all of us.

An individual named Luis, no name or address given said he didn’t want to be here just to give a list of complaints.  He didn’t want to be whining about it.  He was here to throw in his two cents opinion.  He strongly believed that the City Council should make more conscience decisions when it comes to managing the City.  He said the City to him is like any other business.  We all go through difficult times, rough times, but squeezing the neck of all of us just to get the last dime out of our pockets is not a solution.  What he sees as the solution is to look deeply into our finances meaning cash flow, meaning overhead, meaning unnecessary expenses that we can probably eliminate before we can squeeze the last dime out of these guys.  He said this is ridiculous.  This is insane.  He would like to see you guys on a $300 budget per week and then tell him if you can afford this high water bill.  This is insane.  He does not see himself complaining.  He sees himself as providing the solution for you guys, but it is not hiring anybody that can throw us whatever red tape or politics they give you, so called “auditors.”  Put your right hand on your heart and ask yourself, “Do we really want to get these guys by the neck?”  And you know what he means.  He said there are really people struggling to make a decision as to whether or not he is going to buy shoes for his kid or having to spend another $50, $80, or $100 on his water bill.  He stated, “Come on, and you know what I am talking about.”  Why do I want to pay a $12,000 City Manager?  Why do I want to pay a $10,000 attorney when I can cut those expenses and relieve all this? 

Adam Silva, 1561 First Street, said he has lived in Livingston for 37 years.  He said they are all talking about raising the water.  They are not raising the water only.  They are raising the sewer and they are raising the garbage.  The garbage company is not raising a penny to the City.  He asked why they are raising the garbage too.  Mr. Warne said a lot of beautiful things, but they are beautiful things in his way.  He said it is criminal to serve the water.  What is the crime serving water like that.  Nobody is forced to drink it.  Mr. Silva said the worst crime is to charge for water and not use it.  What is more criminal?  Mr. Vierra is missing.  If people are in charge, they do not miss the meeting.  He has a house to rent in Livingston, and the lady lives there all by herself.  They used 40,830 gallons in one month.  He did not believe it, but the lady lives there.  He did not see the water in there.  Last month she moved away on the 5th of the month.  So she used the house for three days and she gave him the key on the 5th and the house is empty and the valves are all closed.  He checked, then the house is still using 30,530 gallons of water.  How?   No sprinklers, and no dish water, nothing else.  How?  How did that house use 30,530 gallons in one month?  Mr. Silva said cut the expenses.  He knows how to cut expenses.  Don’t make suits to the Foster Farms.  Don’t make many bad things.  Everybody cuts things.  Why don’t you cut the expenses of the manager and the lawyers.  The manager costs about $200,000 a year or close.  His salary is about $134,000 a year, plus the benefits, close to $200,000.

Elias Maldonado, no address given, stated that first of all he would like to say to the City Mayor, “Why didn’t you show up on the 4th?”  He made some phone calls to the City for you folks that didn’t know.  The City Manager called me at the house and the City Mayor.  First, the City Manager said he wanted to cancel the meeting on the 4th because they were not ready.   Then he called me again 15 minutes later that all the members were not going to be available on the 4th because they had some sick leave problem.  Frank Vierra was at the Red Ribbon Day.  He was there.  The City Mayor was there.  He saw me, looked around and he walked away.  At the football game Friday night, Frank Vierra was there working as well.  He knew about this meeting.  They all knew about this meeting, the City Manager, the Mayor and the attorney.  They planned it this way not to be here.  Also, he gets so excited about Wal-Mart.  They make phone calls talking to the corporation on their own before they talk to you.  That is why he is excited to get Wal-Mart in here.  That is how they work.  And also, what you guys are doing is wrong. Raising the water rates to the City of Livingston and they say they are short on money, but they lower the rates to Foster Farms.  So where is the money problem?  They are the problem.  To fix this problem, first of all, they need to fire the City lawyer and they are going to save a bunch of money and then rehire somebody humble from the public to sit there in his place to help them make the solution.  It is very easy.  And there is no excuse for them not to show up.  Mr. Maldonado called Vickie Lewis, her secretary, and he let her know that we were going to be there–that people are going to be there–but the thing is they were not ready to show you this Power Point or whatever they had.  And he also lied by bringing that dirty water to you.  I will tell you why, because I went to the school, and he didn’t tell you this part, the school has their own water pumps.  They do not pay them one penny, which is a lie.  So don’t let him scare you.  He should get his facts first before he lies because I am walking.  He is investigating because what you are doing is wrong, City Manager.  You should be ashamed to be up there, and you too, City Mayor, for being up there and you should use your brain.  God gave you a brain, use it sensibly. Don’t let that man buy you off.  

Teresa Maldonado, no address given, commented she also has a similar effect like the man that was up here earlier.  She is not an average family.  She has seven children.    According to her water bill, she was using 33,000 gallons of water a month and she was being charged $89 for her total bill.  Well now with the new rates, God blessed me with another baby.  So now we have seven in our household, nothing else has changed.  Everything is the same, but now in my new bill she used 18,000 gallons of water, but she is paying triple.  She asked does that make sense?  That doesn’t make sense.  She is sorry, but somebody is not doing their math correctly.  Ms. Maldonado had another question for the Mayor and City Council.  If you would have had these many people on that day you were allowing protests, would you have passed raising this bill?  She asked if they could possibly answer her question today.

Mayor Varela commented that this is what the law requires and we have to follow the law.  We sit up here as legislators.  He tries to answer and then moves on.

Teresa Maldonado asked if she could rephrase her question?  Mayor Varela said no, we’ll just move forward.  She asked if there were this many people the day that you decided.  Was there this many people at the City Council meeting?

       Teresa Maldonado ( in Spanish) said to the people sitting here tonight, from now on, come to all the meetings because if you had all been here that day that they voted, the water would never have been raised.  So that you know, you are the ones that have to be present at all the meetings.  Otherwise, they are going to do whatever they want and we are going to be in the same situation.

          Ricardo Soria, no address given, said this is how you are going to have me coming in and paying my water bill, begging!  The next thing he is going to end up doing is being out on the freeway with a sign that says, “I need to pay my water.”  Is that what you want? He has been to most of your City Council meetings and there were never this many people at the meetings, only the ones that were interested.  

          Ricardo Soria ( in Spanish) commented for the next time, you people should come to the meetings because otherwise you are going to have to come in on your knees to pay your bill or they will shut your water off.

Maria Ribeiro, 735 Second Street, a resident of Livingston for 40 years stated that this is absurd.  Some of the people over there are acting like little kids.  They threw the rock at the people then they put their hands behind and said that they did not do anything.  Please, you guys can do a lot better.  We voted for you guys.  We thought that this is it. The City is going to be so good, and the City is good.  Don’t tell me wrong.  The City is really nice.  Everything is going good, but raising the water.  There is no way the people can pay.  You know how much I make an hour?  She makes $10 an hour.  Tell me how much you make to make the difference?  It is easy to be up there and say I want this money.  “I want a million and two million, but it is not easy for people that have families to feed and water bills to pay that they can’t pay.”  What are you going to do?  Close the water.  Then everybody shouldn’t pay at all.  Everybody should get together and not pay one bill to see what happens. Think about it.

Kamni Verma, 420 Industrial Drive, said she understood this was a residents’ meeting. and they are a resident in this town.  She is the plant manager at Fresenius Medical Care in Livingston.  We employ about 35 employees.  About 50% of our employees work here in town and they have been affected by this bill as well as we have been.  Ms. Verma said their business is taking a big hit because of this increase.  We have calculated it and for the wastewater alone, we will be paying at least $140,000 extra a year. That is a huge amount.  We have been in this City for at least 20 years and we have had a good rapport in this City.  With changes like this, you guys are going to push businesses out of the City rather than bringing them in.  Ms. Verma said the water bill has also affected them quite a bit and she did not know amount on that, but she knows from employees, as well.  Some people say their bills have gone up by $50 a month, $80 a month.  She said that is not affordable for this community.  It is a farm worker community.  It is a labor community. Most of the people here work at Foster Farms.  They are not going to be able to afford that.  You have to work with the City residents to make something fit, not throw a 40% increase and another 30% increase that comes in February of next year.  That is ridiculous.  

Fernando Cortes, 2114 Cardella Court, said he didn’t want to speak about the water, trash or sewer rates much any more because he has been to your meetings time after time.  He said when the study was in the way of being formatted and everything, he made a comment about making sure that the numbers were correct and that they were not made up.  He said we can see that there is a lot of the numbers being changed because of the people that have been coming here and complaining that they are using or that they have been charged for more water than what they actually have.  Mr. Cortes said the study was made probably and it was suggested to raise the rates probably for people of a higher class, not considering the lower class that live in this town.  This is not a rich people’s town.  That needs to be taken into consideration.  He is glad that we have a time keeper because if everybody was to come up here and talk, we would be here until tomorrow and he did not want that.  He wants to go home so he can go to work in the morning because otherwise if he doesn’t go to work, he will not be able to pay the water.  Mr. Cortes said he heard about 20 people come up here and complain about the same thing and he is sure that everybody else out there feels the same, one way or another.   He said he was sorry, he made a mistake.  We have one person that is in your favor that is coming up.  He is going to cheer you guys.  Mr. Cortes commented that he had one more request before his three minutes were up.  Is there a resolution or is there anywhere in the California municipal laws that says that the questions we come up here and ask, do we get an answer sometime before your time is over because every time that we come up here we ask questions and we never hear any answers.  He said people have real good questions, very good, intelligent questions and we are waiting for answers and they never come up.  He checked the minutes for the following and nothing.  He checked the reports from you guys and there are no answers to any of those questions.  He asked is there anything in the law that says that you are required or you are  just listening and forget about it?

        City Attorney Hobbs replied that there is no requirement that responses to questions be provided.  This is for public comment, it is the Council’s discretion as to whether or not they want to respond to the comments, but there is no legal requirement that they do.

Fernando Cortes (addressing the audience) stated, “You heard that, so we are all wasting our time here asking questions because they are not going to answer your questions, so you might as well look at something else because they are not going to answer your questions.  They are not going to do nothing about it.”

Mayor Varela said, “Excuse me Mr. Cortes, your minutes are up.”  Mayor Varela said that he was taking everybody’s name and he hopes you would put your information up there because he will talk to you.  He will call you.  And if he does call you, tell please tell somebody that he called you.  People said that they called him and he has a City cell phone.  Mayor Varela stated that he returns every call he gets from people.  He said that anyone that has said that they contacted him might be calling some other number.  Mayor Varela stated that his phone number and e-mail are on Channel 2.  People can call him.  He said that he received two calls from people today, not about this, but about other things in the City.  So please call me.  I will talk to you.

Fernando Cortes said one last question, what do we need to do for you to take care of this problem?  Do you want signatures or something?  Mayor Varela said we will discuss that after the comments.  Fernando Cortes said thank you and hoped he would.  Thank you very much.

       Mayor Varela said we would request that everybody please maintain decorum of participation here.

Gilbert Reyes,1325 Emerald Drive, said he was here tonight, not to complain, but to set the record straight.  He said former Mayor Gurpal Samra’s and Council Member Espinoza’s cronies have accused him of getting free water.  So Mr. Reyes blew up his utility bill.  He said that this is not a water bill, but a utility bill.  As you can see, he used 20,000 gallons of water during October, from October 1 to October 31.  His bill for only the water was $14.72 for 20,000 gallons.  Mr. Reyes said former Mayor Gurpal Samra and Council Member Espinoza have accused him of getting free water.  He said he pays his fair share for water.  His entire utility bill was $88.59.  His house is 3,000 sq. ft.  It is time to conserve water.  This is one of the things that he wanted to bring up.  He stated that Council Member Espinoza likes to swing and talk about the budget.  You have been a Councilman for seven years.  You talk about solutions. Why have you not brought a solution to fix this problem?  When Council Member Aguilar was running for City Council, she knew that this issue was on the table.  It just did not happen.  She should have brought in a solution. Mr. Reyes stated that Gurpal Samra has been the Mayor three times in this town, and has brought nothing to the table.  You know why?  Because you need the votes and so do you, Mr. Espinoza.  You talk about the City finances.  Let’s talk about this, folks.  You and I paid $4,200 to install an additional water line to his mother-in-law’s house.  You and I paid for it.  That is stealing from us.  He never brings that up.  He brings up everything else. You know what?  Sometimes the truth hurts.  We are going to go bankrupt.  We are going to go bankrupt whether you like it or not.

       Mayor Varela ( in Spanish) said please ladies and gentlemen, nobody interrupted you when you were speaking.  We ask that you please respect this individual.

       City Attorney Hobbs told Mr. Reyes that his three minutes were up.

Council Member Espinoza stated that he and Mr. Reyes were neighbors and lived two houses        apart.  They were friends until a couple of years ago when he decided not to vote for former Mayor Friesen and also support Mayor Pro Tem Vierra, who spends most of his days over there.   Mr. Reyes’ wife works for the City as a water supervisor.  Council Member Espinoza said they installed water meters in the alley behind his mother-in-law’s house.  They were putting water meters in the back of every house, but yet when it came to his mother-in-law’s house, they knew he was going to complain.  They put a water meter in the back and then the neighbor or neighbors decided to install her neighbor’s water meter in front of my mother-in-law’s house.  He said of course they knew he was going to complain.  He did complain to the City Manager.  He asked, “What is going on?”  If you are installing all the water meters in the alley, why would you install it in front of the house?  So he complained to the City Manager and, of course, they fixed it, They put the water meter in the neighbor’s property.  He said if you don’t get along with your neighbor for some reason, why would you put your neighbor’s water meter on somebody else’s property?  So, he complained and they moved it.  Council Member Espinoza said all of a sudden, it is on the grand jury investigation that he benefited his mother-in-law.  He found out later they used to work for that company.  They installed the pipes and the water meters.  Mr. Reyes’ wife is the water supervisor.  The same company that he is talking about installed all the water meters, and for some reason they installed the water meter for her neighbor on her property.  So how did he benefit her?  Council Member Espinoza said Mr. Reyes wanted the answer and he answered.  You think it looks like a conspiracy.

Joey Chavez, 1211 J Street, said our City Manager said this problem has been going on for 14 years.  We are not sitting here to blame the current Council.  It has happened with past Councils.  But why in 14 years are we going to come to this solution and raise our rates 150%.  Can you just add on a $10 monthly fee?  Why not do a sales tax for the community?  Maybe a sales tax will work.  Like the auditor said, there are grants that can be written for water.  Do you have a grant writer that does grants?   Mr. Chavez said he works for the City of Merced.  We have worked on three grants and been awarded three grants.  He said it is not that hard to write grants.  He wants to build new fields in Merced.  He is going to the City Council to ask for a sales tax to help out.  Mr. Chavez said there are ways you guys can do it, but not this way. You guys just want to raise our rates at a high rate so you can offset your costs.  Mr. Chavez said he and his wife will pay their bill, but we are going to suffer and a lot of the community members are suffering.   

Council Member Aguilar responded to Mr. Reyes’ previous question.  She said that Mr. Reyes mentioned that when she ran for Council that she knew this was an issue, and why didn’t she ask for a solution or come up with a solution.  She said that she tried.  When we presented, for those who have been at the meetings, the consultant had already had the tiers and every time we asked the City Manager if there was some way we could move the percentages around, it was impossible.  It is on record.  It is recorded where he had said that there was no way around the dropping of the fees and the three tiers were there. And it was pretty much a done deal.  She said that she tried to do something.  She was aware of the issue and actually it was kind of the joke of the City Manager, “Oh you get to deal with the water rates, you are the new person on the Council.”   So it was pretty much a joke and we are here and this is why we are here because it was something that was not taken care of and we are trying our hardest to take care of it now.  She just wanted to let you know that she has been trying hard.  Thank you for your comment.

An unknown individual, did not give name or address, asked in Spanish why are there so many officers here this evening?  Mayor Varela said we have to take that up with the Chief of Police.  The unknown individual said in Spanish that you don’t need so many. People have manners.  Mayor Varela (in Spanish) said “I understand, sir.”

The unknown individual in the audience said (in Spanish) that you are going to pay over time, and that money belongs to the people.  And we are looking for a solution for the water and it’s increasing the money.  What happened with the attorney you had before?

Mayor Varela (in Spanish) said, “You are asking me a question?”  The unknown person in the audience said that he was asking the Mayor.  Mayor Varela (in Spanish) replied the attorney was fired.  The unknown person in the audience asked the reason.  Mayor Varela (in Spanish) said, “I will take your number or you can call me and we will discuss it.”

          Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood, said we just have three words for Mayor Varela, Council Person Vierra, who is absent, and Council Person Nateras, “Resign or recall.”

Sujeiri Carrillo, no address given, (in Spanish) said she was here at the meeting the last time.  Unfortunately, the Council principals were not present.  Ms. Carrillo said she wants you  to see the reality.  She wants you to know that we are low-income people–that most of our kids get free lunches at school.  We are either farm laborers or senior citizens.  We are low-income people.  She wants you to understand that. We have families.  Maybe you don’t have that problem, but she is here tonight to ask you all to support us and find a solution.  Maybe it would have been fine if you would have only increased everyone’s rates just a little, but you didn’t.  Some people pay $100, $200, or $300.  That is ridiculous because we cannot        pay this.  She hopes that everybody comes to the meetings so that this gets resolved as soon as possible or else they are going to disconnect her water if she cannot pay more.  She said her husband is unemployed and she is the only one working for her family.

Teresa Land, 995 Hilltop Avenue, said she has been to several meetings while this mess has been unfolding and she is angered by the results of the water increase.  Partly because more people were not involved sooner, but mostly because it does not seem like most of the panel is listening to the people of Livingston.  Ms. Land stated that she was extremely disappointed in the job that Mayor Varela is doing as Mayor of this City.  She thought it is ridiculous that he did not even look people in the eye when they are up here speaking to him.  Instead, you look down or have side conversations.  When people are angry and speaking harshly, he makes rude comments.  That is not befitting of a Mayor.  She said that she is highly embarrassed to say that she voted for the Mayor and even more embarrassed in the fact that she spoke with many people before voting day about what a great job she thought he would do, and that she would be lending her support to him on voting day.  She said that the Mayor had let her down and she was sorry that she ever voted for him.   Ms. Aguilar, keep up the good work.  Keep doing what you are doing, listening to the people.  It is very clear to most of us that you hear our concerns and vote according to what the people want and not what you personally think is best for all. When I vote, I vote for someone to represent me, to make things happen that will make my life better and better for my fellow man.  I do not expect them to have their own agenda.  Lastly, if the water rates are not reduced to a fair and reasonable amount, then I would like to join anyone who will be taking steps to recall the members of this Council who have and are supporting these outrageous increases.  Let us not forget who is the driving force behind all this mess and that is our City Manager.  Once we get rid of the people who are not listening to the people, let us make sure we put people in their place who will and make sure that their first order of business is to get rid of the root of this fiasco.  Mr. Warne, I believe your days are numbered and Mr. Mayor, I welcome your phone call.


William Ingram, 656 F Street, stated he once sat on the Council.  So he is addressing the Council tonight and all of you, his fellow citizens.  Mr. Ingram said he has sat here at Council meetings and Mrs. Nateras has taken cheap shots at him time after time.  He said    she was the City Clerk for four years, but he will stack his appearances behind that to hers during her four-year term because she missed many meetings, whether it was health wise, family wise or what.   He said he was not criticizing why she missed them, but she missed them. So, if she was not there for all the meetings, then she cannot point fingers. Mr. Ingram said he brought this up just before he left Council last year for our Council to start dealing with this water issue.  He was told that it cannot be done because it will become a political issue.  Well it has.  He has been lied to as well as Mr. Espinoza by that very City Manager sitting up there on many occasions when asked questions about what was going on in the City because three people had met behind closed doors or City Hall likes to call it now, “the whisper room.”  So nobody else can hear what is going on to make the decisions.  Mr. Ingram said that is illegal.  He said if the City Attorney will read the City codes and when he took the oath of office and accepted the responsibility as an attorney of the City of Livingston, you work for the City Council, not the City Manager.  Mr. Ingram noted that he has sat here time after time and just before he left office, the question was asked by himself, by Mr. Espinoza, and by our Mayor, “Who directed the City Attorney to go out and hire these firms and spend all this exorbitant money?” And we were told the City Manager.  The City Manager does not have that authority.  The City Manager takes his direction from the City Council and the City Council must vote as a whole.  And when he asked about restricting the amount of funds that the City Manager had available to him to execute his duties as City Manager to a certain amount, which was a reasonable amount, he thought it was like $10,000 or $15,000.

City Attorney Hobbs told Mr. Ingram that his three minutes were up and asked him to conclude.

Mr. Ingram said thank you sir.

Anita Mejia, 543 Vina Court, said she was here to ask a few questions.  One of the questions is, “How do you read the meters on the houses that are in the back yard when there are fences and there are dogs back there?”  She had that question for an employee, because she works at Emanuel Medical Center as a registered nurse, and he said that he has his meter in the back yard where he has a big Lab where nobody can go in there or the dog is going to bite them.  Ms. Mejia said so you say that you go and read those meters.  She does not know how you are reading the meters.  Second of all, she lived in Merced and paid about $90 for her city bill.  She had three garbage cans.  She said you only provide us with one can.  She said we need to put grass, recyclables and garbage in the can and you are charging us over $100.  Ms. Mejia thinks you are saying that you need to make the rates comparable to other cities, but you do not compare the services to other cities.  She said paying all these expenses for lawyers that don’t even know how to do their job.  They get paid too much money to rip off people.  It is so unfair.  Then you guys get paid God knows how much money.  Ms. Mejia noted the resolution for this is to….She works at Emanuel and has not received a raise for two years because of the economy and they cut our wages.  She said maybe we should do the same to you guys and maybe like that Livingston will come up because what are you going to do if you keep raising these bills up?  You are going to kick everybody out of Livingston.  Then what is Livingston going to be?  Just empty land.  Is that what you want?  You want to be the only soul living here so you can pay those millions or whatever money that put us there?  Ms. Mejia said let’s be realistic.  She has her mother here tonight.  In Spanish she said, “Mom, stand up please.”  That is my mother.  She is a widow who gets nothing.  We had to help her pay her bill.  Are you going to tell that woman that she is going to waste over $200 on the City bill?  Ms. Mejia said she thinks you put your expenses on her bill so you would not have to pay that much money.  She said she had her sister-in-law here too.  She is a single mother.  Two people live in her house and she is behind on her bill.  She said let’s be realistic.  You are going to kick everybody out of Livingston.  This is where I have always desired to live.  She moved to Merced for three years and then begged her husband to come back to this beautiful City, but she does not know if she made the right decision or not.

An unnamed individual said (in Spanish) that he wife sent him to pay the bill and they made us pay it again because we lost the receipt.  He said the workers there do not even know what they are doing.  They do not record it in the computer that it has been paid. He did not know why they made us pay again.  That’s not right.  Another time he went to the Police Department to report loud music.  He was working graveyard.  Why did they beat him up?  He admitted that he had been drinking and a bald headed officer and the one on the motorcycle beat him up.  When they threw him to the ground, his pens fell out which he uses to fill out cards at his job.  And since they beat him up, they sent him to the hospital and then they put him in jail without him being able to do anything.  They  threatened him that if he did not plead guilty, they were going to deport him.  He is here. They did not deport him.  They gave him a ticket for $1,700 and also put him on probation for three years and that is not fair.  He is a worker just like them or more than they are because he works in the field.  They       do not know how one suffers when you work in the field.  Thank God he did not lose his job because his wife called in and she could not do anything because the attorney charged too much and that is what hurts him. They do whatever they want with us.  It is not fair.  He said even the government supports them, even the public defenders.  That is not right and if one does not speak,  nobody will know what is happening in this City and what happened to him.  He does not wish that upon his worst enemy.  He said back then he was taking medication and it apparently showed up as drugs because he went to the hospital.  They took blood and the results showed drugs.  He told them that he was taking medication and they did not give him permission to come home to show them what he was taking.  They said he was using crack.  He does not use drugs.  He is a worker.  He can show you with facts that he is a worker.  He asked them to give him copies of his record, but they didn’t.  They did not say anything.  They would not speak and that’s not right and he lets you know this now because that is not fair to him or for anyone of you if you have children or families.  He admitted that he started drinking because he was fed up with that everyday.

City Attorney Hobbs said that his three minutes were up.

Julio Valdez, no address given, stated that in the meeting in the City Council Chambers, the Mayor said he wanted to meet on the 4th because he had to go somewhere else the other day and did not show up for the meeting.  Why is that?

Mayor Varela told Mr. Valdez to go ahead and finish his three minutes, and then he would answer.

Mr. Valdez said that he would not take that long.  The other person that was here–well a lot of them–they all have questions and you just want to talk to them personally on the phone.  But everybody is here to get the answers to those questions and we have not gotten any answers.  So that is what we want.

Mayor Varela said why the City moved the meeting from November 4th.  He said the week prior he was in Savannah representing the County.  They sent him there to go to a conference, which is why he could not attend the meeting that was requested the following week.  When he came back, we were looking at this and he contacted a couple of men of this group and they did not want to speak to him.  They just said, “You are in trouble.”  He tried to talk to them and they did not want to talk.  They were the organizers he thought.  He said that he sat down with the City Manager and said  let’s make sure that we have hearing aids or ear phones so that we can communicate with the community, including those in English, Spanish and Punjabi.  We tried to strategize and he called some individuals from the organizers to say, “Let’s sit down so we can have a positive meeting where everybody can understand the process.”   Mayor Varela said upon doing that, the information was brought to his attention that the hall was not available because they were going to have a crab feed or something.  Then there was the question if the other hall was going to be available.  There were so many variables in that whole decision making.  So what we did was make it for November 17.  We had to hire interpreters and find qualified individuals, so that they could interpret.  That takes time to strategize, time to prepare.  In doing that we had to give ourselves that window of opportunity so that we could strategize this meeting.  And that was the reason sir.

        Julio Valdez said, “You are the one that requested it.”

        Mayor Varela said he didn’t request that meeting.

Julio Valdez said, “Yes, I have you recorded.  You are on U-tube saying you wanted to do it on the 4th.  Most of these people did show up so we spent our time or wasted it.  You guys did not show up, just Rodrigo and Ms. Aguilar.  Are you going to answer the other questions that everybody has because that is why they are here?”

          Mayor Varela said you heard my response to you and all he hears is people heckling and people speaking over him.  He said he cannot carry on a good dialogue that way.

Julio Valdez said if we can do it, you can do it.  He asked how much are we paying for law enforcement tonight?  Mayor Varela said that he did not know right now.

Julio Valdez asked and how much are we paying the firm that did the audit?  He said $40,000.  Is that correct?  Mayor Varela said that is in the budget.  Mr. Valdez asked if the information was public.  The Mayor invited him to come to City Hall.

Juan Garza, 846 First Street, commented he got a text message from a family friend.  A lot of you are family friends.  We grew up together, grade school, high school.  He got to see the current police chief come in as a rookie.  Mr. Garza said that some of you might know his mom and know that he is Rod’s brother-in-law.  He said there is a person here bringing up that Rod somehow benefitted his mom with some deal with the meter.   He said our neighbors, the Moreno’s, had a meter put in when everyone had a meter put in when they put in the new pipeline.  Their meter for whatever reason landed in the middle of his mom’s yard.  Mr. Garza said he is the one who takes care of her property and takes care of anything that has to do with that.  Now for Gilbert, get your facts straight.  It was not us that benefited.  Rod did not benefit from this.  The Moreno’s had a meter put in the wrong spot.  He asked you wouldn’t want your neighbor’s meter in the middle of your yard, would you?  Mr. Garza noted that we are not benefiting from it.  This is what he keeps hearing, and he is here to tell him that you need to keep my mom’s name out of your mouth.  This is still a small town, it can still get very personal.  Keep to the facts.

Maria Cortes, 2114 Cardella Court, said there is a home that is being rented by a City employee.  She asked if that lease agreement had been amended so that that person can pay water, sewer and garbage service.  She believes that the employee has been there for two years.  Ms. Cortes said she does not know if it has been amended so that she can start paying her utility bill instead of the City, which is us.

Fernando Davalos, 1032 F Street, stated that the next time that we meet or we ask you people to meet, is to get your signature for a recall.  He said we need to get a little over a 1,000 signatures from everybody that is a registered voter in the City to get these people out.  We have to get them out as soon as possible.  So next time there are fliyers going out, please attend.  We need your signature.  You have to be a registered voter to sign the petition to get these people out.  They are just ripping us off.  We will pass out flyers.

          City Council Comments

Mayor Varela stated that it appeared that public comments were over.  We are going to go ahead and bring it over for comments from the City Council dais.

Council Member Espinoza stated, “To the person that, the gentlemen that accused me of benefiting, I just question one thing.  He said it himself that he used to work for the company that installed—Preston Pipeline is the company he used to work for.  His wife is water supervisor, one of the ones that open the bids for the City Manager and I don’t know how somehow his wife ended up with the bid for all those pipelines that went into our City.  Into her husband’s company he used to work for.”

Council Member Aguilar thought tonight the people have spoken and she has always supported the whole idea of change.  She knows that some of you thought that the Council was going to make a change for the positive.  It is sad to say that we are in this situation.  Ms. Aguilar said she wanted to let the Council know as a whole that we have to remember that the economy, that the people are faced with today, is going to show that we need to change the rates. The health and medical care that some people need and have  encountered in the last couple of days also have to be taken into consideration.  The unemployment rate of Merced County should have been taken greatly into consideration when the consultant put the numbers together.  The foreclosure rates are just outrageous and she has neighbors who have sold their homes, and actually lost their homes so we have to keep that in mind which wasn’t taken into account.  Ms. Aguilar said overall, like some of the citizens have said, the makeup of our community, their low-income farm workers’ minimum wage.  She works with the district and we do have free breakfast and lunch and that is because we qualify because we are a low-income community.  Those are my basis that we need to really take care of business tonight.  We cannot let it go another meeting.  

Council Member Nateras stated that when you voted for her, she truly thought that she was doing what was best for the community.  She knows that you might not agree with her decision, but having presented all that was presented to you today–that our town was in the deficit and that we needed to do something.  Council Member Nateras said that she was reading in the newspaper that a lot of towns were going bankrupt.  She would hate for Livingston to become another Delhi or another Winton.  She did know from the beginning when she ran that she was going to be challenged with that water problem.  She will be honest, she did not expect the other two, but she felt that we needed to move this town forward.  We needed to pay for our water.  Council Member Nateras said that the other two were a surprise, and also that they were in the negative as much as they were.  She has listened to your concerns and she is touched.  She is not exempt.  She also has to pay the water, garbage and sewer bills.  She is not exempt.  No one is exempt, and she was torn by the decision.  She is not in it for political reasons.  If you want to recall her you know what you have your right to do what you need to do.  She is just telling you her reasons for why she voted like she did because she feels that we need to see the future not just what is happening today.  We are in bad economic times.  You know that everything has gone up too—everything.  It is only fair that we pay our fair share.  Maybe they were a little steep.  She did not like the three scenarios.  We picked the third one because it was the most conservative, and in addition to that, we deducted 15%.

Council Member Nateras said the wastewater rate was a suggestion from one of the citizens, Fernando Cortes if she is not mistaken.  So we listened.  No one else came up with any other suggestions.  He was the only one.  She said it is a little harsh, but we will be finished paying and the payment will be lower later on.  She also wanted to make a comment to a couple of citizens that came up and said a few things.  She stated to Mario Mendoza that she wanted to set the record straight.  We do not get paid what you said.  She wished they did, but we do not.  For the record, we get paid $300 a month, and you know what, we were open for solutions when we first had….We went with the third scenario.  You all got all the information in your bill.  We went with the third scenario because it was the most conservative one.  In addition, we took 15% off the proposed rate.  If we would not have increased the water rates, like you heard in the presentation, they would have taken money out from recreation.  She would hate to do that to our kids, to take away their sports activities and the different recreation activities they have here in town.  She was truly looking out for the best interests of the community, but she can see that she was wrong.  She is not going to go any further because no matter what she says, you guys have in your mind that we are not compassionate and we do not care.  She said the reason she ran for this position was not for political reasons.  She ran because she lives in this City.  She has lived in this City for 50 years and she thought many of you knew her.  Her history speaks for itself.  She has been involved in many activities, for youth, for the betterment of our community.  So she is not in it for political reasons, so if you want to recall her, go ahead and get somebody else in like former Mayor Gurpal Samra who got us in this mess from the beginning.  Thank you.

A person in the audience shouted if she would still vote to pass the rate increases.

Mayor Varela told the audience that the City Council maintained respect and listened to you and your questions.  We ask that you do the same when we speak.

Council Member Nateras stated, in answer to the question, that she met with the City Manager numerous times when we got the water study and the other two (wastewater study and solid waste study) and she told him, it was not fair that we make the citizens of this community pay for the negligence of our past City officials, but he explained to her what you had just seen and she felt that she needed to step up to the plate and do something instead of nothing.

The Mayor said that for safety reasons, I have been informed that we are going to stop this meeting if there are continued disruptions.

Council Member Espinoza stated when they voted to raise the water rates, they also included a 15% discount.  For 6,000 gallons that would be $27.50.  But the only reason for the strategy of the majority was because the Mayor decided to vote for Foster Farms,  to give Foster Farms a higher discount.  To the citizens it was only like a $1.00-$1.50.  To Foster Farms it is over $10,000 a month.  Instead of increasing Foster Farms it went down.  Council Member Espinoza asked why.  That was the strategy so that Foster Farms could not stop the lawsuit, because instead of staying a lawsuit which is a legal term of stopping the lawsuit, the judge cannot say we are going to stop the lawsuit because Foster Farms was not being injured when the rates went into effect.  So by not being injured, it will continue in a long lawsuit.  He said today we are paying all these attorneys fees, $300,000 in four months, and nothing is being brought to the full Council on deciding what to do, what to continue.  Council Member Espinoza says all he sees is the continuance of attorneys’ fees.  We spent $2 million two years ago fighting Foster Farms until Gurpal Samra came in and we negotiated with Foster Farms to stop the lawsuit.  He said here we go again with another lawsuit that is going to cost us a million to two million dollars.  We are in the hole thousands of dollars, $400,000 just in water and another $1.2 million.  The attorneys’ fees are going to be even more in one year and then all your increases are going to go right here.

Mayor Varela stated that when he ran for Mayor the water issue was one of the problems.  We had brown water coming out into our house.  A lot of people had brown water.  He said when you come behind this area and you are given documentation and you are given mandates that the State of California is asking you to pay attention.  Mayor Varela said we have to follow through according to the law.  If we want to fix the problems of our community it is going to cost.  If we want to have a better future it is going to cost.  That is the bottom line.  Nothing is for free.  Please listen to him.  He sits here and sees a lot of you.  He runs into you in the streets, he probably sees you at the football games.  But this has become such a high level of contention, but you are speaking about him as if you know that he purposely wants to hurt you; and that is not right because that was not our intent.  Mayor Varela said our intent is for the future of Livingston.  Now you could say, you know what we are poor people.  You can be poor people if you want to be, but my parents came here and they gave me an education just like you are doing for your children.  My parents never said you are poor.  You work hard for your future.  And that is what he has done and what a lot of us have done, but to sit here and attack him or attack a Council Member.  With all due respect Council Member Rodrigo Espinoza and Councilwoman Aguilar you are just taking advantage of those situations to highlight who you are, and that it fine.  But folks understand what is going on here.  He hopes that you can see through this whole thing about what is really going on here.  Mayor Varela said there are greater things happening here in Livingston than just the water.  The water is an issue that we are working to fix this and this is the first phase of fixing it.  We had to take this step, but the rest of the way is manageable.  The rest of the way can be worked out.  But like anything else the initial cost hurts.  It hurts all of us but we have to look at this in a common sense way, not that we are victims, not that we are being taken advantage of, but that we have to take steps to better our community.  We cannot allow our situation to continue the way it has for the last 15 years.  

Council Member Espinoza said he would like to make a motion that we eliminate the current tier system and replace it with a single rate tier of 35,000 gallons of water per household per month, and change the water and wastewater rates back to where they were, and later on come back and decide on a much smaller rate increase.

City Attorney Hobbs said that he did not fully understand the motion.  He thought that what he heard Council Member Espinoza say is that he wants to eliminate the current tiered rate system, and to do what?  He asked Council Member Espinoza to repeat the motion.  He said that he did not catch everything.

         Council Member Espinoza stated to rescind the current tier system on the wastewater and solid waste and water and take it back to 35,000 gallons per month per household.

City Attorney Hobbs explained the only thing that was agenized for action tonight is water, so we can take that up.  Wastewater and garbage would have to be addressed at a separate meeting.

Council Member Espinoza, stated that you guys decided to add wastewater, and solid waste.  He wanted all three.  City Attorney Hobbs said his advice is to be consistent.

Council Member Espinoza said that is why when he questioned it when the City Manager was talking about wastewater.  You guys said that the wastewater was on there too.  City Attorney Hobbs stated that you have gotten my advice.  Your motion would be to address all three?  To eliminate the tiers for all three?

Council Member Espinoza said yes, and come back and decide on a much smaller increase at a later time.  City Attorney Hobbs again asked if it was for all three services?  Council Member Espinoza said yes.

          Council Member Aguilar seconded the previous motion made by Council Member Espinoza.

City Attorney Hobbs stated just let me clarify a couple of things.  He thinks what you are directing staff to do, if the motion passes, is to rescind the current rate structures in place, and direct staff to come back and work towards a different rate structure.  Council Member Espinoza said this is correct.

        City Manager Warne asked if this means you are going back to $9.90 for 35,000 gallons?  Council Member Espinoza said yes for now, and then we will discuss another increase later.

City Attorney Hobbs stated that the Mayor asked him whether or not you would have to go through the Proposition 218 process again.  City Attorney Hobbs said at this point he would not know until we had a financial analyst analyze that to determine how the change that is yet to be proposed affects the fee structure.  There is the real possibility that you would have to go through the Proposition 218 process again, but at this point,  we are not able to tell until we have more precision in the proposal.

          Council Member Espinoza said from what he understands in the past you said that only if there was an increase there would be another rate that you would need to do that.  But if you are lowering it, you don’t need to go through a Proposition 218 process.

City Attorney Hobbs explained, you are correct, if it is just simply a decrease like what was done on July 7 when there was a simple decrease in the portions of the fees.  You are correct it would not require Proposition 218.  But to restructure the process depending on what that restructure looks like, you would want to get his recommendation.  You would also want to get a financial analyst to take a look at that to determine how it would affect residential, commercial and industrial structures across the board.  So the motion is fine, to rescind the resolutions that were approved on July 7 for the water, sewer, and garbage, and then we would work towards a different rate structure depending on the direction of the Council at that point.  Council Member Espinoza said that is correct.

Mayor Varela stated we would have to look at this and reconsider obviously as the attorney suggested.  We need to look at what the numbers are if that would push us into doing another Proposition 218 process.  He said Proposition 218 is very expensive.  It would add to the initial cost to where we are right now, so we really need to look at this and see what our options are.  Mayor Varela said so his vote would be “No” and then look at it possibly at the next…well we would set up to your recommendation as to when we could move forward on that.

          Council Member Espinoza asked for a roll call vote on his motion.

          The roll call vote was as follows:     

          AYES:                  Council Members:          Aguilar, Espinoza

          NOES:                  Council Members:          Nateras, Varela

          ABSENT:   Council Members:          Vierra

Council Member Nateras stated it has taken us fourteen years to get here.  She understands about the water, but she thinks what you do not understand is that it is not the water that is the issue.  She thinks it is the wastewater, that is really hurting us.  That was scenario 1 that is really hurting us.  She asked City Attorney Hobbs if they could leave the water where it is and take the steps off.  Would this be doable?

City Attorney Hobbs said he was not sure he understood the question.  Council Member Nateras said if we leave the water rates like they are, but maybe take the steps off.

City Attorney Hobbs asked so that there would not be increases over time?  Over five years?  Council Member Nateras  replied no, not the increase that everybody is allocated instead of…   

City Attorney Hobbs said you want to change the rate tiers from 6,000 to 20,000 gallons; is that what you are asking?  Council Member Nateras replied yes.  Mayor Varela said he would suggest that Ms. Nateras meet with the attorney or ask her question.

Council Member Nateras asked are we legal on the Proposition 218 process before we go any further?  City Attorney Hobbs asked in the past?

Council Member Nateras said no, if we change it?  City Attorney Hobbs asked if we change that tonight?  Council Member Nateras asked if it will be legal?  City Attorney Hobbs said no.  He was not comfortable with that. 

     Council Member Nateras said thank you.

          City Attorney Hobbs said the results for the public are that there is no action on anything, and everything stays as it is.

          Mayor Varela stated that you do what you have to do and we will what we have to do.

Council Member Aguilar said that we have one more item.  Please do not leave.  She thought that all of you guys need to sit and listen to this one.  It has to do with the warrant with the City Attorney.  She thought it would be beneficial to you if you could stay behind.

     6.  Request by Council Member Espinoza to Discuss Warrant No. 69096

Mayor Varela said that the next item on the agenda was requested by Council Member Espinoza.  He said that he would let the City Attorney take over.

City Attorney Hobbs said that the next item on the agenda is item number 6 requested by Council Member Espinoza to discuss warrant 69096.  Previously in the meeting, Council Member Espinoza had pulled for separate discussion warrant number 69181.  Those warrants can be discussed in tandem or separately.  He said that he would leave it to the discretion of the City Council.  Mayor Varela said that he would like to discuss them separately.

City Attorney Hobbs said that it was his suggestion that they first discuss warrant 69096.  He turned it over to Council Member Espinoza.

Council Member Espinoza said he pulled two warrants, both to Bob Murray and Associates regarding the recruitment for the Chief of Police.  He asked the City Manager why we are paying $11,000 on two checks to go out to bid for a new Police Chief when we have never discussed it this year with a new Mayor and a whole new Council.  Council Member Espinoza stated that the City Manager said because he did not have to.  It had already been approved.  He asked the City Manager when did we approve this and he said a year-and-a-half ago when we had a different Mayor.  Council Member Espinoza asked the City Manager why you would use a different motion that is a year-and-a-half old with a totally different Council?  He told the City Manager that if he wanted to spend money he has to come to the Council and spend the money right now.  He asked the City Manager does this mean that you can go back 10 years and find out where we approved something else and then you can spend the money now and not tell the current Council?  Mr. Espinoza said this is why he pulled the warrants and he doesn’t agree with this.  He said there is one check on October 6, 2009, for $4,500 for the Police Chief recruitment and another check on November 3, 2009, for $6,637 that he pulled for recruitment of the Police Chief payable to Bob Murray and Associates. 

Council Member Aguilar stated that the reason these warrants are being pulled is that Mr. Espinoza and she review the warrants every month to see where the money is going.  We want to make sure that the money is going where it should go.  The money being approved is being paid out has been approved by the Council.  Council Member Aguilar said one thing that she noticed is that there are two amounts.  Therefore, our City Manager is authorized to do the recruiting because the cost is less than $10,000.  She stated he has a cap where he has to bring any expenditure over $10,000 to the Council for approval.  She said since there are two checks in two amounts he is able to move forward with the recruitment.

Council Member Aguilar commented that when Chief Eldridge retired it was our understanding that we were going to keep Lieutenant Silva as the Interim Police Chief for the time being.  She said we were never told that we were going to be recruiting, so that is more money that is coming out of your pockets without your knowledge.  Our City Manager is basing it on an agreement that he had with the previous Council.  She stated that is why we pulled these warrants.  She said both Lieutenant Silva and Lieutenant Soria have been a part of the community for a long time.  Council Member Aguilar said many of you have known them for years, and they speak Spanish.  She said Ms. Silva has been here for years and is well known in the community.  She knows a lot of people.  She knows the neighborhood and was pretty much raised here because she is an officer and she is around lots of good things.  She has heard many good things about her.  Council Member Aguilar said to have someone come into our community who we do not know and take care of us–“Hispanic, Portuguese, Punjabi, and English speakers, do you want someone who knows the community.  This money is going to bring in someone possibly that we do not know.  We are putting our safety on someone who does not know our community and this is happening because our City Manager has the authority to do this.  That is why we pulled the warrants and she agreed that these warrants should not be paid. 

City Manager Warne explained that, when Chief Eldridge resigned for the first time, with the concurrence of the City Council, we solicited proposals to hire an executive search firm to assist the City in the recruitment of a Police Chief.  He said the City took proposals from several different executive search firms and brought them to the City Council.  On May 20, 2008, the City Council voted to hire or authorized us to enter into a contract with Bob Murray and Associates to assist in the recruitment process for the Police Chief.  City Manager Warne said that was based on a City Council decision, which   Council Member Espinoza voted for.  We moved forward.  The City Council was aware that we were going to move forward and were going to have this executive search firm assist us in the process.  He said anyone is welcome to apply, current officers or outside the City, but that is the process.  We want to make sure that we do not politicize the process and that we go through a process so that we get someone who is highly qualified who can be the Police Chief of the community.  City Manager Warne reiterated that it was City Council approved after proposals were taken; and once the City Council approves something you do not go back and approve every single thing that a previous City Council approved.  It was authorized by the elective body and he did not act on his own.

Council Member Aguilar said, “Yes you did.”

          Council Member Espinoza said that was a different year, and he did not think that can be followed. 

          Council Member Nateras asked if the work has been done, but they are voting not to pay a person who has done their work.

          City Manager Warne said that is correct on both of these warrants.  The work has already been completed.

       Council Member Espinoza commented he would not have had a problem because if you guys want to come in and vote on it.  And if you want to recruit, that is fine.  But the way that everything is being done behind our backs is not right.  Mr. Espinoza said he knows you will pass this when Mr. Vierra is here, maybe at the next meeting, when the people are not here.  Maybe 10 people will be here when they will pass it with a 3-2 vote.  He said this was not approved by this Council, and you cannot go back and look for some other vote two to three years ago.

Mayor Varela asked Council Member Espinoza if he voted to approve this item with the last Council.  Council Member Espinoza replied, “Yes I did and I have no problem with that.”

Mayor Varela said then we move forward, because the attorney says that it is legal and the direction went the way it is supposed to.

       Mayor Varela noted it is in the process, and is being completed.

          City Manager Warne commented we are in the process of recruiting and work has been completed.  The bills represent work that has been done up to this point.  A contract approved by the City Council and he believes it was a unanimous vote to hire Bob Murray and Associates was for $18,000. 

          City Attorney Hobbs stated that there is no action on that item.  The next item is Warrant Number 69181 which was also requested to be pulled by Council Member Espinoza.

     6.  Request by Council Member Espinoza to Discuss Warrant No. 69181
         

     Council Member Espinoza pulled the Warrant and noted that $59,000 of the $81,000 warrant was for attorney fees for the Foster Farms law suit.

Council Member Espinoza stated that this is a warrant for $81,791.36 for this month for attorney fees, and of the $81,000, $59,000 is just for Foster Farms in the lawsuit that he has not been informed about in the last two to three months.  He asked what was going on, but it keeps moving forward and he knows it has not been brought to us because if we can stop it, we will stop it.  Council Member Espinoza said the City Manager does what he wants and he guessed we will spend your money.  He said he would like to vote separately for the $59,000 from the $81,000 because it is just for Foster Farms legal fees.

Council Member Aguilar stated this is just one of four of the amounts that eventually are going to be approved.  Last month they cancelled the meeting.  In November they cancelled the meeting.  Some of these warrants get approved every month.  We approve them twice monthly and overall, she and Council Member Espinoza pulled about two warrants that had to do with the City Attorney getting paid.  Council Member Aguilar said one warrant was for $65,445 and the second warrant was $43,791.34.  Those were two warrants that should have been held for tonight so we could vote on them.  But since Mayor Pro Tem Vierra is not going to be here, it was going to be a split vote again.  So we do not pay the bills.  She said somehow our City Manager or some staff member did not know what was going on, and the warrants were paid so we actually paid $100,000 that was supposed to be held for tonight on top of the $81,000.  So that is what is happening.  We say what needs to be done and it is not being done.  It is called management, and you know where that goes. 

Council Member Aguilar made a motion not to pay the $81,791 and to make sure we vote on the $59,565.59 separately so that we can have one vote from each member.  Then we can see where our Mayor is going to vote.

Mayor Varela said he did not need to wait until then.  He will tell you the City will always pay its bills, if he has anything to do with him.

       Council Member Aguilar said I’m sure they will.

        City Attorney Hobbs said that he was not sure that he understood the motion.

Council Member Espinoza said he would separate it.  He made a motion that the City not  pay the Foster Farms bill of $59,565.50 and have a roll call vote on that and then we will come back and do the difference.  Council Member Aguilar seconded the motion.         

        City Attorney Hobbs said so there is a motion and second not to pay the Foster Farms litigation.

       Council Member Espinoza asked for a Roll Call vote.

Council Member Nateras asked City Attorney Hobbs to emphasize what will happen if these bills do not get paid.

       Someone shouted from the audience “Are you scared.”

Council Member Nateras said no.  She just wants you to know how it feels sitting here.  It is a responsibility that she has.

       City Attorney Hobbs replied the bills would be delinquent

Council Member Nateras asked, and with interest, the City will pay more money right?  City Attorney Hobbs said quite possibly, yes.  That decision is not his to make.  It is for his law firm.

        A roll call vote was taken not to pay the Foster Farms litigation fees in the mount of $59,565.50.  The vote was split 2-2 with Council Members Nateras and Varela voting no.

          City Attorney Hobbs said that as before, there is no action.

CITIZEN COMMENTS  

Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston said that since Thanksgiving is almost upon us, she wanted to talk a little bit tonight about some good people who do good things for the good of Livingston. There are quite a few people who devote much time and effort to activities that benefit others.  People like Marge McFadden who devotes much time to community efforts as a member of the Court Theater Committee, the Mosquito Abatement District Board, and Lions Club. The Lions Club with its white cane days raises funds to help preserve and restore the gift of sight by providing free eye exams, operations and medication to the less fortunate members of our community. Then there is Denis and Sue Wells of the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary.  Ms. Schell Rodriguez said that they, with the help of dedicated members of the extended military family, put on a number of events to promote patriotism, aid injured and retired veterans, and promote the general welfare of this community.  Blood drives that the VFW sponsors are just one of many such community activities. Then there are all the members of the Key Club, both the young and the young at heart, who are heavily involved in community work. There are a number of projects that members of our own Police Department organize, participate in, or contribute to.  She said Toys for Tots is coming up. For more information about that worthy cause, contact John Mucci at the Police Department.  Finally, a great big thank you is in order to Rod Bettencourt, Bob Weimer, and Brandon Friesen of the Rotary Club who unselfishly filled Woody Campini and Bob Thompson’s shoes this year to the point of taking a week’s vacation, providing work crews and sending over last minute supplies to make the crab feed a success.  This crab feed provides thousands of dollars in scholarships to our local youth.  She said these guys had very big shoes to fill and they were awesome in the job they did and they deserve a big thank you.  The hard work and dedication of our service clubs and people like this is what makes Livingston a really a great place to live. 

City Attorney Hobbs said that he would like to remind the speakers that this section of the agenda is for items not on the agenda.  So if you have discussion about the water rates, that item is already past.  This is for items not on the agenda.  

Maria Elia Simon, no address given, (in Spanish) said she is here tonight to clear something up. When they were installing the water meter at her house and the next door neighbor’s, they put a meter in the middle of her yard.  She asked Rodrigo Espinoza to please come look at it because that was not right.  She said their property is the same size as mine and that is what they installed.  Ms. Simon said so then this man, Gilbert, whom she didn’t have the pleasure to meet, but that is why she came now because every meeting is just about bothering Rodrigo.  That he is  a very poor administrator because he did that.  She said she could have asked his wife who works for the City or Margarita or Martha, or any of them because it would be anyone that works in the City.  That’s what she believes needs to be done.  Ms. Simon asked do any of you here think that what Rodrigo did is wrong?  Why does this man bring that up every time and at every meeting?  Can anyone answer her so that she can do something for them to install the meter back in the middle of her yard.  She is paying for her property.  The Moreno family is paying for their property.  Why does it have to be on her property if they have enough space?   Ms. Simon noted that if they had placed it in the back in the alley, she wouldn’t have said anything even if it was on her side because it is part of the City, but in the middle of my yard!  She said you tell her.  It’s a question that she is asking, especially for you, Gilbert.  Tell her if she did something wrong so that way she will know what to do when something like that happens again.

Gilbert Reyes stated that he was going to answer her questions and said, “Espinoza I hope you tell everybody here the truth, okay?”  That alley behind your house was already completed.

Someone in the audience asked Gilbert Reyes to respond in Spanish.

Gilbert Reyes said he wants to talk to him too.  He said he has a choice in this Country to speak English or Spanish.

Gilbert Reyes (in Spanish) stated that back in the alley where the water pipe goes, the alley was already completed.  So then you called Espinoza to help you because the meter was placed in the middle of your yard.  If I had my property with two homes, I would have to pay for permits and you have to pay for the meter they installed in your house.  All that cost, almost $4,200, we all had to pay for.  I am not attacking you.  Like he said that before he was his friend because he lived there, but what he did, because he has tow trucks and he got mad because one day I asked him, “Why did you break that tree that we all pay for?”  I am responding to this lady.  Look, all of us pay that money so they could install that waterline.  Every person that is going to put in another waterline on their property has to pay for permits.  The alley was already completed.  The City had to pay Preston Pipeline more money to go dig out the pipe.  I worked for Preston Pipeline in San Jose.  I am a member of the Operating Engineers Union.  I worked in San Jose for one year.  That is two different divisions.  I do not have any conflict-of-interest with Preston Pipeline.  He knew that the City was going to have to pay Preston Pipeline to dig out the pipe.  He is a Councilman and should have said, “We are going to pull out all the permits and pay to make sure it was done right.”  He is a Councilman here.  Don’t you think we were going to find out?  Because he is a Councilman, he was able to do all that for free.

Gilbert Reyes (in English) commented that is the only thing.  He has no conflict-of-interest with Preston Pipeline.  He worked with Preston Pipeline in San Jose.

City Attorney Hobbs said his three minutes were up.

Council Member Espinoza asked Mr. Reyes, is that why your wife benefited you for giving them the pipeline?  You worked for the company. Or are you mad because they made your wife work there?

Gilbert Reyes responded that he was retired.  She did not authorize the contract. You should know.  

Juan Garza, no address given, told Gilbert Reyes to get his facts straight.  Preston Pipeline did not go out there and change the meter.  The people that went out there were City workers.  A long time friend, Mike the City guy, a little heavy set dude that is sick right now, he is the one that did it.  Get your facts straight.  Why would Preston Pipeline get paid $4,000 is beyond me if the City workers were the ones that did it.  He said get your facts straight.  You sit here and you talk trash and we are addressing the Council, both my mom and I.  We want you guys to stop this shit because it is getting old. 

Mohani Thiara, 2747 Claret Circle, said she came in as a translator because she knows there was a Punjabi community out there.  Some of them left maybe it is because they work at Foster Farms.  She came in to translate to help her community.  She has been in this community 30 years and she just volunteered.  She was not getting paid for coming tonight.  She knows, she’s heard a lot of negative comments regarding the City Council right now.  Ms. Thiara had a couple of comments to make before we leave tonight.  She does not have any personal grudges, but she has been coming to these community City Council meetings over and over—actually the last 4 or 5 years.  She knows that a lot of you personally attacked the Mayor and the City Manager and Council Member Nateras.  She knows we are all frustrated including her.  She has lived in the City for the last 30 years and was really pleased on how the Mayor, the City Manager and Council Member Nateras handled your negative comments.  She said you were practically yelling and were very rude.  She knows we are all frustrated.  She is paying the bill too.  We are all paying it.   Instead of looking for a solution, all she heard was a lot of negative comments and she was really disappointed in our community members in the way you handled it.  She said we were here to find a solution.  She is all with you, but these negative comments, yelling and making negative comments, recall. You know what a process recall is?   She has done it.  Just getting the signatures is not going to get it.  Ms. Thiara asked do you guys have the money?  You guys talk about how you cannot pay the extra bill for this.  Do you have the money to hire a lawyer?  If you get the recall, it is going to cost a lot of money.  She knows there has been a lot of negative comments—kick out, resign, recall.  You know what?  Mr. Samra, the other Mayor we had in the past, got us in this mess to begin with.  You guys do not realize it.  She said that she does not work for Foster Farms.  She has been in this community, worked for all the different schools starting with the Livingston Elementary School, Livingston High School, and Middle School.  She is a Punjabi community person too.   This is very negative to see.  Mr. Samra is the one that got us in this mess.  All this water cleaning, the water you’ve seen.  Her kids grew up, been to the doctors unhealthy and look at this mess.  Yes, we need to clean the water.  We need to do all this that they are saying, but we need to do it in a positive way.  She is really ashamed of our community and the way you guys handled it.  They did not pay her for that.  She did not get paid.  She just did community service tonight and she was coming to translate for her Punjabi folks.  She asked who is organizing this protest.  She stated, “You know what? I have friends also at Foster Farms, the people from the Punjabi community and I will be damned if I am going to sit there and let a couple of people manipulate and tell the City the wrong information.  If they become a Mayor, the water rates are going to go down. Folks, they are not going to go down.”

ADJOURNMENT

Mayor Varela said thank you very much.  This concludes our meeting for this evening.  He thanked the translators, the Police Department, officers from out of town.  Thank you for your help.  Have a good night.

The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 9:34 p.m.                                                               ______________________________

                                                                    City Clerk of the City of Livingston

APPROVED:  February 2, 2010

___________________________

 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.

8 thoughts on “NOVEMBER 17, 2009

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