The City Council wants the current rate payers to pay for all sewer improvements, even though the sewer capacity will be doubling to serve developers. This will be a great hardship to a City where about 34 percent of resident incomes are below the poverty level.
And the council has not offered to raise hookup fees one cent.
The city received and accepted only one bid that was doulbe expectations for construction. They advertised for bidders for only a two month period during the holiday season.
Sewer rates have already gone up, up, up. They have been raised numerous times. It is quite logical that rate payers assume improvements will be payed back with revenues collected from previous rate hikes. In 1998 the sewer rate was only $16.35; in 1999, $20.30; in 2001, $23.54; in 2002, $26.95; in 2003, $31; in 2004, $35.65 and in 2005, $40.95. And here we are today, with little to show. An independent audit is called for.
Rate payers were unaware of the huge economic burden to themselves, until the city finally decided to send them a simple, one-page notice. The volumes of documents related to this project is overwhelmeing and most rate payers do not have the time to understand them. At the first workshops and hearings, rate payers were schocked. It only took the mailing of one small piece of paper, as required by Prop. 218, for rate payers to understand the financial impact on themselves. When they finally were noticed, they objected strongly. That notice was inappropriately sent after contractors were hired.
This is the first time since Prop 218 passed in 1997 that the City Council has followed the law and given the rate payers the chance to protest.