Coastal Voices: The ratepayers don’t have endless pockets

By John Stetson October 30, 2013 05:25 pm

Why do we have to hear and read City Council members not tell the whole truth?

I am ‘on the record’ (i.e. recorded) at a city council meeting insisting that Councilmen Ron Gastineau and Richard Holley provide their constituents a public apology.

Why? As I stated then, and is still true, both of their articles published as Coastal Voices in this paper (Oct. 4 and Oct. 7, respectively) are incomplete, I believe misleading, and possibly deceptive.  

As adults we know we can not survive without water.  We know we want it delivered reliably, immediately, inexpensively and clean.   

The water rate-payers served by the Crescent City Water department, whether city or county residents, have paid their bills to assure they get this service. 

For the future, the city would like to adjust the inexpensive idea.  In both councilmen’s articles they have presented the rate increase as 60 percent.

Reality is, the 60 percent is increase one of five!  Most water rates will approximately double by July 2015. That is 100 percent in 19 months!

Therefore, I believe the councilmen’s statements are at best, incomplete and misleading. If you agree and are a property owner served by city water, please protest today!

Next, by their articles, they would have us believe that the system is decrepit and falling apart due to age, putting delivery reliability at risk.  Perhaps so, but what do they propose to resolve the problem?  That is part of their job! 

The city hired a consultant to develop a five-year plan for the water system. That consultant put on a good show in presenting the results to the Council. It implied to the Council that through rate increases the city could fund making proposed repairs and also include some I-wanna items. (My opinion.)

Among many slides in the presentation is a section titled 5-year Capital Improvement Plan. The plan documents that starting in fiscal year 2015 the city plans to spend $53,000 to “replace valves and 600 linear feet of water mains.” And $54,000  for same in fiscal year 2016/2017, $56,000 for same in fiscal year 2017/2018.  

My initial thought: good.   

However, the same slides document spending starting in fiscal year 2015/2016 of $437,000 for Phase 1 of a “Remote Read Metering System,” $450,000 for Phase 2 and $463,000 for Phase 3.

That is $1.3 million for meter reading, and only  $163,000 for water main repairs.

Did I hear whining from politicians about “money for repairs”? See where it goes?

If that does not seem appropriate, please submit a protest.  The deadline is Nov. 4. 

If there are more then 1,800 feet of water main replacement required, than how did the metering get a higher priority and almost 10 times more water-user dollars? 

I define that as a “wanna” project until need is justified and financial solvency returns.

If you are a city water property-owner-customer and you agree with me, please submit a protest now.  It is your right.

How did we get in this mess? Basically, several City Council boards permitted the city to spend more then it received from rate-payers and to even spend more then budgeted, for several years. The total is about $1 million.

The city wants to keep on spending, the bank account is now very low and, with approval of the City Council - they jointly want to have the rate-payers refill the bank account.  That will solve nothing! (Perhaps you have heard the joke about if it looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck …  or how about the one with the fox guarding the chicken coop?)

Should the account be replenished, then the city plans to leverage that into more money with loans and have the rate-payers repay those loans for decades.

That is in addition to the existing $350,000 annual debt payment for decades.

Rate-payers do not have endless pockets. Monies we pay for taxes and fees directly reduces how much money we have to spend at local stores for everything else. 

I believe I am a man with well-learned skills to include a BA in finance from Cal Poly, Pomona. I learned responsibility and accountability as a serviceman in the Vietnam era. The Army also taught me leadership, and I am proud to say I graduated from the 3rd Armored Division Non-Commissioned Officer Academy.  

I value my reputation and have provided the above as true to the best of my knowledge.

I have no reason to misrepresent anything and all my numbers are extracted directly from the city website.  

I believe I am presenting the above in the best interests of the public.  I disclose that I have functioned as an unpaid volunteer consultant to two organizations involved in this movement. However, the views I present above are exclusively mine.

John Stetson is a Crescent City resident.