Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why Do Sierra Madre Residents Pay More For Water Than Arcadia Residents?

water
It is Sunday and I usually try and avoid the weightier stuff on the celebrated day of rest. But there is a lot going on right now, and with a City Council meeting coming up on Tuesday so much more to get out.

I expect that we are going to see a pretty large outpouring of resident concern over the City's use of fines and service cut offs to curtail water usage Tuesday evening, and there are a couple of issues I'd like to throw into the mix. The Tattler is generous like that, and we try to be the place most likely to share this kind of information. Since we live in a burgh where the adjudicated weekly newspaper of record merely reprints City Hall press releases on such topics, and with no messy questions asked, somebody has got to do it. Might as well be this blog.

The question of comparative water rates has come up, and with Arcadia drawing its water from basically the same place as Sierra Madre, you would think that these rates would be roughly equal. But they aren't. Below you will find a couple of links that show us what these actual numbers are.

As I think you know, both Arcadia and Sierra Madre get their water from the Raymond Basin. And yet there is a fairly large difference between what Arcadia charges its customers and what we are being charged. Arcadia's water and meter rates are detailed on their website and can be accessed by clicking here. What it shows is that water in Arcadia currently costs $1.37 / 100 CF. And remember, Arcadia has no tiers.

If you click here you will be linked up with a comparable City of Sierra Madre document that details our current water rates. Though our chart is far more opaque than the one Arcadia provides, you will be able to see that for FY 2013-2014 the charge per unit is $2.21 for Tier 1. With most folks here being way beyond Tier 1, and therefore paying even more.

All costs that are considerably more that what the folks downhill from us are being asked to pay. Please note that this chart is an older one and does not take into account that the City of Sierra Madre is currently initiating a move to raise our water rates to even higher levels later this year.

(Reader comment: Arcadia charges an $11.29 meter charge, Sierra Madre's meter charge is $46.26 for a 5/8" meter!) 

Why is this? In my opinion it is largely due to the verboten topic of water bond debt. The City of Sierra Madre owes approximately $19 million dollars (interest factored in) for water bonds that were executed in 1998 and again in 2003. Done at interest rates that are quite high when compared to those available today. The debt service on what we owe for these past indiscretions comes to right around $1 million per year, which is a significant portion of what the Water Department takes in.

It also contributes to the sad disrepair of our water infrastructure. Because so much Water Department revenue is being gobbled up by bond service, the repair of such things as water mains and drilling for new wells keeps getting kicked down the road.

This is the black fiscal hole that, along with sweetened employee benefit and pension deals, is driving much of the current money grab at City Hall. The result is that rates and fees are being raised across the board. Not to mention the intense political pressure being put on the taxpayers to approve the upcoming do-over vote to extend UUT rates that, at 10%, are the highest in California.

Our current City Council, with the notable exception of Chris Koerber, refuses to discuss the dire consequences of our water bond debt in public. This despite it being the obvious reason for our problems here.

In my opinion this is being done to shield certain political allies of Nancy Walsh, Josh Moran and John Harabedian from having to take the heat. The persons responsible for indebting us at such unsustainable levels being former Councilmembers Bart Doyle, Doug Hayes and Rob Stockley.

In other words, it is largely a politically motivated cover-up.

Speaking of paying more ...

I'd like to repost a comment made by a reader a couple of days ago. It's one of those "I wish I'd said it" kinds of things that show up so often on this site. Yet more proof that if you're not spending time with the comments section of this blog, you're not experiencing all it has to offer.

The City has declared war June 7, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Imagine a world in which the management of a private water company failed to invest in an adequate water supply despite borrowing millions. Then, to deal with its error enacted rules that would reward it with increased rates when its customers failed to meet usage targets. Even though the customers have no access to the data necessary to monitor compliance.

For good measure let's make the usage targets arbitrary, with July target based in part on February usage. The result: 50% July usage cuts.

Throw in exemptions for favored users regardless of property size or number of persons residing on the property. And to complete the absurdity toss in an exemption for the owners of the water company themselves. There would be a public hanging presided over by local politicians.

This is what your council has done.

There has been a lot of discussion this week about how the City mandated 20% water usage cuts are in reality 50% mandated usage cuts for many during the summer months. Which is pretty much where we are right now. Here is how this one breaks down:

Take your total water usage and divide it by the six billing periods. That gives you an overall average for the year. However, water usage is not something that is equal at all times. In the hot and dry summer months usage spikes considerably as many consume a lot more water for things like watering lawns.

The City of Sierra Madre is mandating 20% water usage reductions based on your yearly average starting with the two Summer billing cycles. Which are the peak times for water usage. Lets say your average water usage for the yearly six billing periods is the big yard number of 30 units. But factored into that overall number is the 60 units you consume during the two hot weather billing periods.

So if you are someone who uses a lot of water for your yard, rather than having to reduce your water consumption by 20% now when you are using the most, you are actually being asked to slash your water usage by as much as 50% through September. Either that or face stiff fines. Not to mention the possibility of having your water turned off altogether.

I'm not sure that City Hall took the time to think this through. And apparently they are catching considerable heat for it.

http://sierramadrethattler.blogspot.com

50 comments:

  1. I believe the arbitrary July target was intentionally developed by city staff. By imposing this target 50% summer target the city guarantees widespread non-compliance during summer months which provides the city with a revenue increase it could never get past the voters.

    Also note that using this method means there will be no usage reduction required in winter though that is when the aquifer is replenished. I am extremely disappointed in the council's decision to adopt this staff generated program without proper review.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. This was dishonest from the start.

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    2. It's just not good thinking. There are too many problems with this method, and to lose all landscaping will really hurt the value of people's homes - paving the way for McMansion flippers to come on in and buy all these houses with dead yards.

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    3. The City having no water is going to be a downer for prospective buyers as well. All this hullabalou from the City is going to have a backlash on home values and RE sales this summer; add on the highest UUT in the state and Sierra Madre isn't looking too attractive to many folks.

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    4. Our city's government is careening out of control. After a year of Josh Moran, followed by Nancy Walsh, we are talking leadership with the vision of a sea slug. These problems are way past their abilities.

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  2. The kicker is this: the city tells you to cut usage by 20%. They even send you a notice showing a 20% cut. In bold type. They don't show monthly usage. They don't tell you how to monitor daily compliance. The deceit is breathtaking.

    Prediction: 75% single family non-compliance through October. Political mayhem in November.


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    1. Why wait for November!

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  3. It is a temporary rate hike before a real rate hike can be put in place.

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  4. Just got my bill. If you people are right I can increase my usage for the January to may period by 40%. Unfortunately , I must decrease it by 50% - 65% during the July - November period. Obviously you people are wrong as the bill plainly states that I need only reduce usage by 'up to 20%." And we know Chris koerber would never go along with such nonsense. Please stop spreading lies about the city program.

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    Replies
    1. Enjoy paying your summer months fines. And why should winter matter anyway? By then the new water rate hikes will be in place to take up the slack.

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  5. Since I suspect most of this cockamamy scheme was the work of the City Manager, her behind closed doors meeting with the City Council Tuesday evening could be very interesting. She has made them look like asses.

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    1. Maybe they'll fire her.

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    2. They're too stupid. She's convinced them they can't do the job without her.

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    3. Not only has she suckered them about her own work, but about all the other people who work there too. Our city staff has apparently been breaking records by working so, so, so very hard that they can't do one more thing.
      So when you go in city hall and see all the lazing around, it's just a mirage.

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    4. I think she is one of the most dishonest people I have ever met.

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    5. Beg to differ 9:15.
      It takes a lot of paper pushing, emailing and interviewing to hire consultants.

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    6. The job of city council and residents is to keep the employees as happy as possible, doing as little as possible, and getting good salaries and benefits. I do not know why the city staff has such privileged positions, but they do.

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    7. City Staff lives better than most residents. If you were to throw them out and offer their jobs to people who actually live in Sierra Madre, this list of applicants would extend from City Hall and well past the Library.

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  6. This is on coppacia and koerber who were elected to analyze - not rubber stamp - staff recommendations.

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    1. So what were Josh, Nancy and Johnny Process elected to do? Talk about themselves?

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    2. Koerber and Capoccia disappointed. I won't be supporting them or any other politicians that betray the residents.
      Josh, Nancy and Haribedian are also enemies of the residents.

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    3. Why so petulant 8:41? Koerber works hard for the people of this town.

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    4. The dirts are bitter. They're hearing footsteps.

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  7. Arcadia charges $11.29 meter charge, Sierra madre's meter charge is $46.26! (5/8"meter)

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  8. I think the charge of $2.21 per unit is only for tier 1, I'll bet most people are far above tier 1!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I will add that to the article.

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  9. Are we (the public) still paying for dinner for council members before the council meeting? With leftovers going to staff? Maybe the city could save money there along with some waist lines.

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  10. the macmansion at one Carter have no base line so when built and are useing 1000 gallons a day there will be no fines

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  11. Sierra Madre has been run by racketeers since the 90's.
    With the exception of Kurt Zimmerman, MaryAnn MacGillivray and Don Watts, who represented the best interests of the people, not corporations, building organizations, and political parties, and realtors.

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    Replies
    1. Remember, Bart Doyle's 2003 water bonds were to get the cash needed to provide water infrastructure for the as yet voted upon Downtown Specific Plan. Which never got built because Measure V hammered a wooden spike into its greedy black heart.

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    2. We can thank the hard fought battle by Kurt Zimmerman and Don Watts, along with former residents Kevin and Katina Dunn for winning Measure V.

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  12. Oldtimers say that the Water Dept. used to be a cash cow, and that the money sloshed around between funds it was not supposed to be in. Took a lot of powerfully bad mismanagement to ruin that source of income.

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    1. All it took to finish the job was a little Federal matching money a some Mayberry land barons who thought they would get rich and scram before the house of cards collapsed.

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  13. According to the Director of Public Works, we won't have any water to worry about within a month or two.
    Right?
    Isn't that what he announced?
    How long ago did he stand up and make that one-year-left speech.

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  14. H 2 Uh-Oh. What's that saying? Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action. So let's figure it out:

    Upzoning. Council: "We didn't want to, but our hands are tied." Strike 1. Mansionizing. Council: "Not our fault.It was broken when we got here." Strike 2. Water Whirled. Council: "It's complicated." Strike 3.

    Is our city government being honest and transparent about the water issue? No. Everything they've said so far is as clear as mud. (That's what you get when you mix dirt and water.)

    Mismanagement or Malfeasance? Or are they the same thing? Myself, I think it's enemy action. Which reminds me of another old saying: "3 Strikes. You're Out."



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    1. A great POST..thanks !!!

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  15. Everyone reading this who knows this is a giant SCAM, a RACKET by the City to extort $$$$$ from us......all of you, PLEASE show up at City Hall Tuesday night and speak out, use your 3 minuets to express your outrage at this.
    This is the ONLY way this corrupt city council will be forced to back off.
    If we don't do this, we lose....we have no chance. If we do it, we have a chance.
    Please come down to City Hall Tuesday night....6:30 pm and help fight for yourselves and all the rest of us residents who are being robbed!
    Thanks in advance to all who care!

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  16. Talk is cheap..action is required!Under the Constitution,there are remedies available to challenge abusive actions taken by their elected officials.

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  17. You are right, mod, that Arcadia's water is cheaper, and, again that they are downhill from Sierra Madre. Downhill means they don't have to pump water uphill to a majority of our homes. It also stands to reason because of their population, they can spread the costs around more than Sierra Madre can. That being said, there are lots of unintended consequences to our latest mandate, and it needs to be redone even before it starts. There should be at least a 6 month trial before fines start. I'm sure if the Citizens realize the severity of the drought, they will comply starting now. Those who don't should be fined and fined big after 6 months.

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    1. Another apologist for reckless fleecing of our citizens to benefit the pocketbooks of others?

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  18. Doesn't Arcadia's water basically go the same route at Sierra Madre's? But then has to go a little farther?

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  19. Arcadia also has some big water consumers, the race track, the mall and the arboretum, to charge and spread out the costs.

    How was the water allocation from the east Raymond basin (which Sierra Madre and Arcadia share) figured those many years ago? Probably Arcadia buys water from somewhere else, too. Have we sold water to Arcadia in past wet years. They have always needed more than us. Do we get to buy some water now from somebody else? If we are basing our usage only on what we put into the east Raymond Basin, considering this past winter then we are in a pretty bad way.

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    1. For sure Arcadia buys water from Sierra Madre! I wonder if they pay the same rate for the purchased water as the residents of Sierra Madre.

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    2. We will always be "in a bad way", reason enough to impose a moratorium on all future building within the city limits!

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    3. The only sensible develoment in a city that is running out of water is no development.

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  20. We don't have to stop development; just stop new water hook-ups.
    Property values stay healthy, and each existing water meter becomes what any structures are built around.

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  21. So, here is what I looked at and I think many Ssierra Masre water users might to do so as well.
    Go to the city web site, click on in the blog above, and at the very top you will find:

    Ordinance 1312, Sierra Madre Water Rates, 11-23-2010.
    Open that and scroll down 13 items and you will come to

    Water Subcommittee Documents for the 3-09-2013 Meeting

    Attached is the September 25, 2012 staff report for the subcommittee to work with: Sierra Madre State of the Infrastructure. Read that and see what we are up against.

    I was looking at other cities information on water infrastructure problems and Pasadena notes that most of what is in place was put there during a big building effort in the late 1930s and not much has been done anywhere excpet piecemeal since the 1940's.


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    1. Ask yourself why it is essential infrastructure repair has not been done. The answer is the money necessary to do it is not there. It is all being sent to New York to pay the interest on the bond debt. Water infrastructure decay is a consequence of debt. The two are not exclusive of each other. These people killed our water company out of greed, and those responsible don't want you to know it.

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  22. Here is the post of November 11,2010...
    "That's interesting, a forensic audit obtained by the Citizens of Sierra Madre, paid for by a "real citizen oversight committee with funds obtained from the UUT or other sources that have been developed with local tax payer dollars
    That way you don't have to wrangle through the FREEDOM of Information Act and try to parse numbers and bank accounts that have a deep, dark history that's "not available"
    In any case the residents are being totally stonewalled by an agenda that goes against their best interest and desires. Good Ballot Measure for the next election."
    What happened? I believe we should have a forensic audit NOW!

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