Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Should We Automatically Assume The City Knows What It Is Doing?

Now this might not be the venue you'd expect to see someone asking whether a 37% water rate hike is enough. But seeing how this is not the Looney Views News, we're going to let the people decide. Because there are some very important questions that get asked by Mr. Richey, and as far as I can tell nobody has cared enough to answer them. Or at least not yet. Though the letter I am reproducing below has been sent to various elected and hired officials, so who can tell? Maybe they will get around to it.

And there just could be a bit more here than first meets the eye. I, for one, have always enjoyed a good mystery. And what could more mysterious than how this water rate increase matter has been managed? Hard questions get asked, and all that comes back are offers to visit the pump house.

You might remember Earl Richey from our last City Council meeting. He spoke to the City Council at length during Public Comments on matters which they, if I read the body language correctly, were not all that comfortable about hearing. That is, of course, the ones that actually understood what he was talking about. The questions Earl asked were tough, detailed, and not at all conducive to properly managing the public's perceptions on the water rate hike. Which is where City Hall's real priorities have always been.

So here is Earl Richey's letter to the City Council. I am reprinting it here in its entirety.

Regarding: Request for City Council To Agendize ... 37%+ Water Rate Increase & City Water Debt Concerns!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010, I spoke at the Sierra Madre City Council meeting using my 3 minutes allotted for public comments such as mine. This letter is meant to reinforce my comments which I shared that evening.

Is a 37% Water Rate Increase Enough?

I have a few questions which I requested the city council agendize for a future meeting.

1. It was my understanding that the city budgeted to purchase 4,000 new water meters for a cost of $1,200,000+/- which would include radio towers and monitoring devices to be installed to read the residents water usage more efficiently.
- What is today's cost to manually read the 4,000 water meters per billing cycle?
- What is the estimated cost to read 4,000 electronic water meters?
- What is the new radio meter reading savings for Sierra Madre?

1-a. Was the commitment to purchase these 4,000 water meters put out to bid?
- Who were the other bids received from and at what cost?
- When was this agendized and voted upon by any City Council?

2. It is my understanding that the City of Sierra Madre has 60-100 year old water pipes that must be replaced immediately, prior to the big earthquake. Therefore:

2-a. If the full 37% water rate hike goes into effect today, based on the present $3,000,000+/- water sales to city residences per year:
- Why are we only budgeting $24,000 per year for replacement of deteriorated water pipes if we have an additional $1,200,000+/- per year to spend?
- The math: $1,200,000 Water Rate Hike - Additional Increase (estimated 37%+/-) minus $24,000 yearly estimated expenditures for replacing deteriorated water pipes comes to $1,175,000.

2-b. If we budget and spend an additional $24,000 per year for the replacement of water pipes, where would the additional $1,175,000 be spent?

3. It is my understanding that the city owes $7,500,000+/- in borrowed monies in the form of loans and bonds.
- Bond #1 $3,000,000
- Bond #2 $3,000,000
- Re: Item #3-b, $1,500,000 debt service effective June 2011
- Re: item #1 - $1,200,000 proposed water meter purchase.

3-a. Based on the $6 Million Bond Debt, we are presently paying $898,773 a year for interest & principal (debt payments).
- Based upon $3,037,500 water sales, that's 30% of our gross water sales income per year! (Example: $898,773 / $3,037,500)
- Based upon Proposed Debt of $8,700,000, we could be paying in excess of $1,123,773 a year for interest & principal (debt payments).
- Based on the $3,037,500 in water sales, that's 44% of our gross water sales income!

We also owe an additional $1,500,000 to the San Gabriel Valley Water District.
- At the present time the city has no money to pay monthly interest and principle (debt payments) to the San Gabriel Valley Water District.
- I have been told that the San Gabriel Valley Water District has agreed to defer monthly debt payments. The first monthly debt payment will be effective in July of 2011 in the amount of $250,000 per year.

3-c. I would like to discuss where these monthly debt payment monies will come from in the event the city has not increased the water rates prior to July 2011?
- Bond debt = $898,773, San Gabriel Water Dist debt = $250,000, Capital Budgeted for water meters = $100,000. Total $1,348,773.

4. I would further like to request that the city provide a list for the residents to review of Engineering Company & Contractors which were awarded city work in excess of $10,000 per job, for the years 2000 to 2010.

5. At this time, based on our city's current credit:
- What is the City of Sierra Madre's Water Department Credit Limit?
- How much more can the Water Department borrow over the $7,500,000 debt which the city presently has?

6. I would like to know why the Sierra Madre City Council failed to approve these questions to be agendized for any up and coming City Council meetings?

In the event these are deemed not appropriate for Council discussion, then it would appear that water rate increases must not be the real issue.

My take is the City Council will not want to touch topics like $7,500,000 in water bond (etc) debt because that isn't what they want people thinking about. Throwing good money after bad is not what most people regard as being a sound use of their money. And then there are always those embarrassing forensic kinds of questions regarding how exactly things were allowed to get this bad in the first place.

If our little water company is this horribly in debt, wouldn't we be better off just selling it? It's not like our new water rates will be all that cheap after the hike anyway. Will the City's mismanagement of our water company improve if we just give them more of our money? And given that level of already existing debt, is it even worth the money it will take to save it?

As we've said here before, it is all about City Hall managing public opinion in order to get even more of our money. The last thing anybody there wants is inquisitive people with potentially embarrassing questions disturbing the marks. This is not the kind of conversation they're looking to have right now.

Which is why I am happy to raise it here.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. Earl Richey! What a great letter!

    Thanks, John for picking up on this.
    Would you please insert the Tattler website at the end of your comment?
    People will want to print this out and pass it out to friends and neighbors. It will save us the trouble of having to write in our website link.
    Thanks, Crawford.

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  2. Buying new meters is a huge waste of money, the meters are only read 6 times a year, you will never save enough money to pay for those new meters. Who is the relative of the city council members who sells meters?

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  3. These are all questions which the public should ask on the city sponsored water tours. Mr. Richey should demand this information through thte Freedom of Information Act.

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  4. The whole water rate issue was mis-managed from the start because the city thought citizens would not question the consultant's report or recommendations. By not thinking through the implications of a massive hike (and they should have seen it coming since surrounding cities have had the same controversies --Pasadena and Los Angeles to name two) they went full bore ahead. Now the chickens have come home to roost and they don't have the answers for us. Instead of asking Elaine and Bruce since I don't believe they really know the answers, the consultant who did the study is the one who should be the one talking to us -- at no extra cost, by the way.

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  5. Thank you Mr. Richey for taking your time and energy to investigate city business. It's not easy to do, but it's efforts like yours that make this a good town to live in.

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  6. CASH COW,,, that was what the SM Water Dept. was called. Up until 1990 the city did not put the money back into our water infrastructure and now they want us to put the city further in debt to fix it all at once, why can't the city just start fixing the worse lines first and put our people to work instead of spending money for out of town help, we do have managers here. There are a lot of questions not answered and Mr. Richey and the community should be getting some questions answered.

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  7. Mr. Richey has made me appreciate more fully the city council schtick on this - and remember, it's the council that is controlling this, not the consultants, or Inman or Aguilar. The council decided to hit us up with "It's the old pipes" and that's it. All of the other reasons have been forced out of the council. The city staff will need a lot more visual aids than an old pipe to explain this mess.

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  8. Thank you Mr. RicheyAugust 18, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Mr. Richey: Please repeat your entire speech at the next city council in Sept. And then the next.. It will be on the record.

    We need to be represented and heard. When the City is investigated no one will say the citizens were sleeping while the City Hall took over. These Citizens were awake and PROTESTING while their government was pretending to sleep.

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  9. It's people like Earl Richey that help us know what is really going on. Wonder what kind of answers he'll get.

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  10. Perhaps Mr. Richey will require his very own educational outreach program, since he clearly understands so little.

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  11. 10:26, he's a man, so he won't get the"Don''t worry your pretty little head about it."
    He'll get some folderrol about how complex things are.

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  12. This water tax hike isn't about replacing pipes and now the city council (mosca/buchanan/moran/walsh) are lying once again and using the Looney View News and a marketing sales campaign to distort, spin misinformation, use fear tactics and bend the truth which was uncovered in their first attempt. that the tax hike was to get federal funds to build an infrastructure that would be in place for future housing developments.

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  13. The city doesn't like people like Earl.
    They don't like people like Denise Delmar.
    They don't like the Canyon Zone Committee.

    Because these are all honest, intellegent residents who donate their time and talent to the people of Sierra Madre, to the future of Sierra Madre.

    Oh, the city development wonks will pretend to listen and respect these people, because to do otherwise would be a political blunder.

    Keep making them nervous, Earl, John Crawford, Denise Delmar, MaryAnn MacGillivray, Nancy Shollenberger, John Herrmann.
    Keep telling us the truth. It will make a difference.
    Won't be easy, but you people will make a difference.

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  14. Great summary 11:14.

    Hey Residents Research Team, any chance of getting Earl's speech on Neuroblast?

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  15. Letter from a local architect:
    Dear Mr. Richey,
    You just wait. Pipes will break and you will be without water and you will be very, very sorry that you didn't obey this council, and me.

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  16. It's the council that didn't say o.k. we heard you and are going to start over again. But They can't answer the questions because they have no clue what the answers are that Mr. Richey posed. WAIT. . .they have no clue about anything so never mind. . . .

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  17. From a local lawyer to the local architect:

    If you believe that the pipes are about to break, then you would think this is a good idea, but why all the other hype?
    Why do we need water towers and electronic doo-dads. Oh, I bet it's to allow you and your other architect friends to design high-end houses that will in-densify our small town.

    I think the City knows exactly what it's doing, but it's not what they're saying.

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  18. What's it cost to send the meter readers out to read the meters including their motored conveyances, their Workers Comp insurance, their sick leave for working in rain, sleet, snow and hail (no wait, that's the mailmen)? You can bet the electornic meters will result in layoffs (no wait, it probably won't).

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  19. Earl Richey is exposing mismanagement. And some smart business people have been talking about that all along. All of our problems, all of the financial wrecks come from bad management.

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  20. When the gang of four answers Richey's question in full, honestly, then I'll consider a rate hike.
    The council has taken a good step toward being more honest by admitting that they are pro-development, and that they need the pro- development additions to the General Plan Steering Comm.
    So let's hear from the pro-development council why they need the water rate hike for development.

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  21. Sir Eric, the title,

    Should We Automatically Assume The City Knows What It Is Doing?

    needs a little reworking:

    We Should Automatically Assume The City DOES NOT Know What It Is Doing!

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  22. I am grateful to the many volunteers who walked from house to house and informed us all of Prop 218 and got me and my neighbors to sign.

    I do not blog but this is worth it. All of us who signed need to be informed of this particular letter by Mr. Richey.

    Why not print it and send to all the signers of the protest!

    Better yet have the editor of the Mountain Views news publish it.

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  23. how long before the DSP lives again?August 18, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    It is a good change that the council minus one is taken off the fake face of loving "our village" and embracing in public the people in the community that they care about. The hypocrisy level isn't quite as bad.

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  24. I disagree that the council opening up about its development agenda is a positive change.
    I think it shows a new level of confidence.
    They did get the water rate hike and they did get to skewer the general plan with their friends.

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  25. The REAl answer to the water increase is:
    Broken pipes..... ?,
    new water meters....?,
    bond payments........?
    what else can we think of to spin the truth,
    hmmm, could it be Bart knows.
    I know,...could be we all need to subsidize development?

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  26. The council of 4 has a great way of lying:
    in silence. They love to pretend they do not hear what the citizens say by avoiding comments.

    Mr. Richey please repeat your speech to the CC and send it to the LA TIMES. With all the other Southern California CC problems, this is just another great nail in the coffin that Siera Madre CC needs to wake up to.

    Thank you Earl Richey!

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  27. 2:26, the Mt. View Looney News will never ever never ever never publish Mr. Richey's letter and questions for the Council.

    The batty lady that runs it refuses to allow any letters to the editor that contridicts her opinions and even one of her writers said she edits their own editorials if it has any positive reference to the Tattler or has an opinion other that what she wants.

    The mailing of the letter is a great idea. It should be mailed to be in homes around the same time the water bill arrives.

    The first time around the Council of 4 and some of our city staff flat out lied about the water tax hike reasoning and used a smokescreen of exploding pipes and state of emergencies to sell the tax hike.

    Even with the new bullship the Council and Public Works is trying to sell us, it's the same load of BS, it's still about some massive federal grant that is to be used to build a water infrastructure for SCAG approved development.

    At least we aren't having Joe claim how much he "loves" the city anymore and we all see him for what his is, a shill for his employer and it's the same for Buchanan.

    No surprise that both Mosca and Buchanan's employers will benefit from a new infrastructure for development.

    Plus, Moran can sell more home loans and his Mom can flip more condos.

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  28. Who says the council has been forthright about being pro-development.? I mean I know they are, but they're still keeping up[ the old "preservation" stuff, the preserve by developing.

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  29. Responsible CitizenAugust 18, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Bart is wonderful
    susan is wonderful
    john is wonderful
    josh is wonderful
    joe is wonderful
    nancy w. is wonderful

    at representing the big money.

    Why would they listen to Richey's accurate accounting??

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  30. Develop to Preserve, aka,
    develop to preserve developers rights to their own preservation.

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  31. Dear Local Architect,
    One hopes you design better than you reason.

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  32. Great conversation today! It is good to see a wider range of viewpoints.

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  33. If I had lots of extra time I'd find council discussions through the years when the threats came fast and heavy - like Buchanan and the rest of 2004 on the need to give into the hillsides developers or get sued - or the times we've been told that if we didn't do everything SCAG wanted we'd be wiped out by the state - gather all those empty threats together and ask for an accounting.

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  34. Wait until Crawford puts the web address on today's article before we print up copies. He should get that up tonight.

    We don't want to waste any opportunities.

    This is a great topic today. We need to share it.

    Keep the pressure on, Tatts.

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  35. Working person @4:17, don't forget to include the Measure F tax campaign, F for fools, they thought.
    The council at that time said we'd have to close the library, stop the police, close the parks etc...
    How weird is it that later closing the library became a smear attack against the slow growth side, an attack made by some ex-council people who had threatened that would happen before.

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  36. still read the papersAugust 18, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    From the LA Times, on the FBI raid on Oxnard city hall:
    "Prosecutors say they will need months to analyze materials seized in a raid on Oxnard City Hall as they seek evidence related to possible misuse of public funds.

    In a written statement, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Greg Totten said the investigation does not focus on "inflated salary and pension-spiking concerns" like those in the city of Bell. He declined to give details of the probe, however, saying only that it "involved potential misappropriation of public monies, the handling of contracts involving public works and other city projects, and potential conflicts of interest."

    According to some Oxnard officials, accusations related to a $250-million water project are at the heart of the raid, which was conducted Friday by district attorney's investigators and FBI agents."

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  37. Now THAT is the kind of forensic audit I could get behind, 6:21.

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  38. Former Mayor, His Honor, Kurt F. Zimmerman called in vain for a forensic audit.

    I am very sorry that I did not fight hard for this, so is everyone I know.

    :(

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  39. When the "big one" strikes. or the monsoon rains pelt our Mt.Wlson, watch out! Bouldrs and "stuff" will come down on 1 Carter and Stone Gate and Stone House and level everything.
    Who Pays?? SM

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  40. The finances of Sierra Madre should have been examined brick by brick. This "water rate process" is just another attempt to cover up the financial idiocy of the Shenanigan Years. Nothing more.

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  41. 5:07 writes:

    "This "water rate process" is just another attempt to cover up the financial idiocy of the Shenanigan Years. Nothing more"

    It amazes me that this "new shenanigan gang of 4" would even attempt this crap, in light of all the scandals we are seeing come to light on almost a daily basis, here in Calif. and nationwide.

    Very dumb, you dirts and worse, very dangerous.

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  42. The video short of Earl Richey, exposing City Government mismanagement is availible on Neuroblast here
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPMCeEFoA6o&feature=search and through the "Neuroblast Films" link above

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  43. 7:09 last night.

    It is very hard to audit documents that were shredded years ago in order to hid the evidence.

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  44. Speaking of Shenanigans, I was checking the USCIS regional immigration investors list, and Titan, Bart Doyle is no longer listed.

    But a firm Pacific Access LLC is listed for Titans share of the regional pie. I remember this is not their entire name because they were one of the three firms, vested in the Transit Center, that filed a letter with the city protesting the El Monte City actions at the time. Now I am not accusing Pacific of wrongdoing, they are using an LA Wilshire address, but they were involved with the Transit Center, and may still be involved with the Gulliverish Bart Doyle, because like hookworms, once they get their whispering barbs in you, like tapeworms one section may break off but the worm lives, still feeding on the host.

    But Bart Doyle is no longer under the protection or auspices of Homeland Security and
    Customs and Immigration, as a regional manager of the E5 program. Of course it is probably the same soft shoe shuffle of names and corporate entities, but it looks like some sort of enforcement and removal of power for Barty.

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  45. Right you are,7:57 there are no documents to audit, and it would be a waste of money and time for us to pursue this. Those records are long gone. Better to keep digging on current information and expose them that way.

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  46. Thanks, Dave and staff for keeping them honest with the Neuroblasts.

    Thanks Earl for your great efforts! Keep holding them accountable for this b s. Anyone who watches this, and checks Earl's facts will fine he is 100% ACCURATE!

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  47. 9:17. How do you know that no documents are available? If there were no documents available, then why did Buchanan et al. fight so hard to avoid a forensic audit?

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  48. 10:55 am, it's a closely guarded secret; Buchanan et al fought hard to avoid having to admit the loss of several years of docs and computer mischief because it would have resulted in egregious harm to the Councilmembers in power at the time.

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  49. Who fought for the forensic audit? Kurt Zimmerman, that's who. Who fought for the release of the DSP EIR? Kurt Zimmerman, that's who. Who fought against the forensic audit? John Buchanan, that's who. Who fought to suppress the DSP EIR and not release it to the public? Joe Mosca and John Buchanan, that's who.

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  50. Thank you 11:18. Historical accuracy is a beautiful thing.

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  51. so if i'm following this correctly kurt zimmerman fought for the forensic audit because it was the only way he could demonstrate that it couldn't be done...

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  52. Neuroblast, great clip.
    Richey is right on the money!

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  53. As the law may apply to Susan HendersonAugust 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Taken from a PSN article regarding the Stolen Valor Act used in attempting to prosecute former Three Valleys Municipal Water District's board member Xavier Alvarez for lying about receiving the Medal of Valor:

    "In a 2-1 decision on Tuesday, the court majority ruled that the law violates Alvarez's free-speech rights.

    "The right to speak and write whatever one chooses - including, to some degree, worthless, offensive, and demonstrable untruths - without cowering in fear of a powerful government is, in our view, an essential component of the protection afforded by the First Amendment," wrote Judge Milan D. Smith Jr., in support of the majority opinion.

    Milan also stated that Alvarez's lie does no harm to anybody."

    My guess is that Susan Henderson is aware of her First Amendment Rights and how her false claims of degrees from several institutions of higher learning cannot be prosecuted unless she violates a specific law. Very interesting.

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  54. In that case, I'd like to announce that I have won the Nobel prize for chemistry.

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  55. Dear Local Architect,
    If anyone should know the costs to replace old city street water pipes it would be you.
    If the water tax increase is effective today at a (37% gross increase) and the city alocated ($24k) annually for additional monies to be spent on replacement of old water pipes, how many feet of water pipes could be replaced per year?

    Example:
    ($24k) / $125.00+/- per foot to remove & replace the old water pipes =

    that's right ....192 feet of new water pipes per year.

    If a car is 20' long... that almost 10 car lengths....
    OR
    That's (2) 100 foot water hoses!!!

    Question?
    Let's not confuse the facts...
    Where is the balance of the $1,200,000
    to be spent?

    We need some answers....

    Lets be thankfull that some one addressed these issues in a manor we can understand!!!!!

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  56. Sierra Madreans for Sane Financial PracticesAugust 19, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    11:39, maybe. Guess you'd have to ask Mayor Zimmerman.
    Strikes me that like all people with integrity, he just wanted to know the truth.

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  57. Request.....

    We the citizens of Sierra Madre would like the city manger to confirm this letter to be correct in contex.

    We the citizens are requesting that the City Water Department provide each city residence (water purchaser) a copy of this letter along with the next 2) water bill statements.

    I believe this is a great discussion for our community!

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  58. When Mr. Richey spoke to the council, he was given one of those loud cheery "Thank you"s from Mr. Mosca. Mr. Mosca may have even followed that with "good questions & staff answer them"
    So did Mr. Richey get any answers?

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  59. please advise as to why the letter to the architect is no being posted.
    You can remove the word "architect" or change the wording if thats your concern....

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  60. Dog Days of August ModeratorAugust 19, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    As of 1:00 pm all posts have been released. If you believe your post was not released, please take the time to re-create and it will be looked at in a timely manner.

    FYI, all posts are being moderated and delays of an hour or so are to be expected. None are being deleted except those with offensive language, or are otherwise grossly improper, refer to private citizens, and families or children of more public citizens.

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  61. Hey, Hugo, interesting stuff about Bart. Thanks.

    Some of us are guessing old Bart and/or his pal bully Glenn Lambdin are trolling on this board.

    According to one of our writing experts.....there is a poster who pretends to be a 1. Woman 2. new poster
    3. a concerned citizen and a few other fake id's.

    This same poster ( the one who attacked Old Kentucky on the previous day's thread) is 1. Not a woman
    2. writes well (our expert has identified the same writer) 3. is a "drinker"....reasoning....Crawford and or moderators have had to delete this same poster's late night vicious/obsene ramblings, ramblings of a drunk, usually directed at Crawford or Old Kentucky.
    So if you're reading this troll Glenn or Bart.....you aren't that clever. We're on to you.
    This would not be the first time, you've trolled this blog.
    Don't like to hear the truth, now, do you?

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  62. Hey DogdaysaugustMod, thanks for taking such good care.
    And I declare that Sir Eric Maundry has won the Pulitzer for Best Local Investigative Specialized Reporting

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  63. Inconvenienced travelerAugust 19, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Does the city know what it's doing? Don't make me laugh. If they did, they wouldn't have told us the water rate hike was about pipes!

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  64. Thank you Sir EricAugust 19, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Everything that has been said here needs to be taken to the podium and put on the record.

    This blog has many well informed people. But, not everyone is able to read it and the information needs to be spoken to the people.

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  65. Ring the Bell?

    This is just going to keep going. Fasten your seat belts

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  66. I think the delay in imposing this bogus hike is mean to run out time so you can't sue or file a referendum. Be careful!! These people are cheaters.

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