Sewer rate hike protests due Mon.

Written by Aaron West, The Triplicate May 19, 2014 01:49 pm

The city’s plan to raise sewer rates is going under the microscope at Monday’s City Council meeting when a public hearing will take place regarding the issue.

The rate increase, which the city calls a cost of living increase, is in response to rising inflation and operating costs, as well as the increase in the cost of living, over the last two years, according to City Manager Gene Palazzo. If approved, city and county users would see a 3.6 percent increase in their sewer rates, a figure derived from Consumer Price Index for 2011 to 2013.

A council vote for approval could take place on Monday depending on whether or not those opposed to the increase are successful in their campaign against it. If the opposition manages to get 1,696 valid protest letters — that’s a letter from 50 percent plus one user of the sewer system’s total users — to the city clerk before the public hearing is over on Monday, the plan would be halted, according to the rules of Proposition 218. 

As of Friday afternoon, protesters had collected about 1,100 protest letters, Donna Westfall, protest coordinator, said.

“I believe in miracles,” Westfall said, adding that the protest’s street team will be trying to collect 150 protest letters a day between Friday afternoon and the meeting. The team, which has been collecting letters and drumming up support for their cause for the past 41 days, consists of about 10 “on again, off again” members, depending on members’ obligations, Westfall said.

On Monday, after the staff report presentation and the public comment period, the letters will be handed over to Deputy City Clerk Robin Patch to be counted. Palazzo said that how long the count takes depends on how many letters there are, and when the Council votes depends on how long the count takes. 

If the count is complete by the end of the meeting, the Council will vote on Monday evening. However, if it’s finished later in the week — like it was in November during the Proposition 218-fueled protest against last year’s water rate increase — Palazzo said the vote would likely be moved to the Council’s June 2 meeting in the interest of transparency. The last time Proposition 218 was used to protest sewer rate increases was in 2007 when the Council approved a $30 increase, which was fully put into effect in May 2013.

Under Proposition 218, one valid protest letter per parcel can be accepted. A valid protest letter must state that the person signing it opposes the proposed sewer rate increases, and it must include the assessor’s parcel number, street address or customer’s sewer account number. A printed name and signature must also be included.

Written protests may be submitted to the city at the public hearing or mailed to City Hall at 377 J Street, Crescent City, CA 95531.

The public hearing will take place 6:30 p.m. Mondayat the Flynn Center at 981 H Street in Crescent City.

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