Monday, August 11, 2014

Today Uncle Sam Buys Sierra Madre A New Water Main

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This is the day that Sierra Madre's waterless water company begins the job of constructing a new water main on North Mountain Trail Avenue. You may recall that whatever we have there now hasn't been quite faithful to the task recently, having blown more than once. Not that this is the only water main in town to do that, either. There have been others as well.

Here is the inevitable press release (link):

Water Main Replacement to Begin – On Monday, August 11, 2014, construction will begin on the replacement of the existing water main in North Mountain Trail Avenue. The existing main was installed in 1928 and has been subject to multiple serious leakage incidents in recent years.

A new 12 inch diameter ductile iron water main will be installed for the entire length of North Mountain Trail Avenue, from Sierra Madre Boulevard to Mira Monte Avenue. The Contractor, Stephen Dorek Equipment Rentals will be notifying individual project neighbors of the pending construction work. While every effort will be made to minimize inconveniences to neighboring residents, some impacts are unavoidable. The Water Department apologizes in advance for those inconveniences and asks for community patience with the project. The result will be a more reliable water distribution system.

Motorists are advised to take alternate routes. Construction activity will take place weekdays between 7 AM and 4 PM and the project is expected to be complete October 8. The Contractor will make provisions for trash pickup and vehicular access for residents of the project area. Questions regarding the project may be addressed to Bruce Inman, Director of Public Works at binman@cityofsierramadre.com or 626.355.7135.

There is nothing in this press release about where the money necessary for this lengthy project is coming from. And the assumption some might be making is that this is the result of our most recent water rate increases. That would be an unfortunate mistake. Because in reality the money is coming from Washington DC, and has been on its way for quite a while at that.

Here is how the Los Angles Register explained it a couple of weeks back in an article called "Local water projects tap Bush-era bill" (link).

About 2,500 feet of underground steel pipe, the concrete lining of which has worn away, will be ripped up to make way for new pipes, fire hydrants and water meters. The repair is expected to take two months.

“Our water main system dates back to the late 1920s and has become almost famously unreliable, as seen by major leakage and significant damage to the street,” said Sierra Madre Public Works Director Bruce Inman.

The project is partially funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, made available through the 2007 Water Resources Development Act. The federal bill set aside $23 billion for more than 900 nationwide projects and programs, including $25 million for a Los Angeles River revitalization study.

Just so you know.

While it is all tax money, and ultimately comes out of the hide of we the taxpayers, it is nice to think that the Feds care enough to help with those nagging water main problems that have bedeviled us for so long. But what is troubling is the notion that unless we continue to get this kind of dough nothing much else will ever get fixed. Again from the Los Angeles Register:

Sierra Madre’s long-term plan is to repair water transmission lines one by one as money becomes available, officials said. This is the second main to be replaced but the first to receive funding through the federal bill.

You might recall that the previous water main repair took place on an eastern stretch of Sierra Madre Boulevard a few years ago, and was funded by money taken from Sierra Madre's now vanished Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). A source that today no longer exists.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't one of the reasons the recent water rate increases happened was to accumulate the cash necessary to fix infrastructure such as that on Mountain Trail? This from a water fund PowerPoint presentation put out by the City during the recent run up to the latest water rate increases:


So then why would the City be waiting for more money to become available to take care of all of those other water mains that need to be replaced? The water  rate increases did go through, so therefore those revenues are now being set aside to raise up on high the water infrastructure for the rest of Sierra Madre as well, correct? Perhaps not.

There were two other items on that "Water and Sewer Fund - Concerns" list. They might be more to the point.


The Water Department, as you know, is the home of that $37,800 a year health care plan that has been discussed here so often. One that many believe is the highest of its kind in California. So #5 could certainly be playing a role here.

So where will future water main repairs be getting their funding? According to this Examiner article, it probably won't be coming from Uncle Sugar any time soon.

At the time it was passed, the Water Resources Development Act faced intense opposition from the executive branch. President George W. Bush vetoed the bill in November 2007, saying that the money allotted to such projects had more than doubled.

“The House of Representatives took a $15 billion bill into negotiations … and emerged with a Washington compromise that costs over $23 billion,” Bush said in a 2007 statement announcing his decision to veto. “It is not fiscally responsible.”

Bush also objected to the lack of priorities in the bill, which he said threw funds indiscriminately at local counties without debating the value of each project or which should receive funding first.

While the bill ultimately passed, gaining enough votes to override the presidential veto, new legislative reforms since have cracked down on earmarks and riders, which members of Congress insert into federal spending bills to fund projects in their home constituencies.

In 2010, the House Republican Conference approved a ban on earmarks that is still in effect.

“The whole appropriations process has been changed due to congressional reforms, so we haven’t gone back yet to request more,” Inman explained when asked about future grants to Sierra Madre.

“We’re sort of waiting for the dust to settle.”

Just the way things go, I guess. Maybe this will take another bond sale or something.

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37 comments:

  1. Here's the craziness of this entire thing. first the Feds take our money in the form f taxes and then they give it back to us in the form of grants etc. But because they performed this act of largess (with our money) they now feel that we are beholden to them for their generosity. I wonder what "threat" they will hold over the city's head because the city took the money. trust me, it will be some crazy compliance thing.

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    1. Well have to take illegals.

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    2. I'm sure the city will have to pay "prevailing wages" which are easily 50% more than market rate.

      How much you wanna bet that we have to pay a consultant to make sure the Federal filings are done right?

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    3. Thanks to retired Congressman David Dreier for the funding. Judy Chu sure as hades had nothing to do with it. She'll claim credit, tho, when it's done.

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    4. Chu hasn't lifted a finger for Sierra Madre. Not once.

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    5. But Congresswoman Judy Chu cares about Sierra Madre. She said so!

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    6. http://keywiki.org/Judy_Chu#Communist_Workers_Party_connection
      In the early 1980s, Judy Chu was a leader of the Federation for Progress, a front group for the Communist Workers Party.
      The Federation for Progress was another attempt to create a new Marxist united front organization, much like similar efforts of the People's Alliance and the National Committee for Independent Political Action.
      The FFP put a half-page ad in the "socialist" oriented weekly newspaper, In These Times in the July 14-27, 1982 issue, p. 8, entitled: "A natural follow-up to June 12: A national conference July 30-August 1 at Columbia Un., in New York City".
      It was a follow-up conference to the major "anti-defense lobby" march and protest in New York on June relating to the U.N. Second Special Session on Disarmament.
      The FPP Interim Executive Committee consisted of;
      Judy Chu - Professor Asian-American Studies, Los Angeles
      Michio Kaku- nuclear physicist
      Frances Hubbard - teacher of community health and social medicine, City University of New York \
      Dr. Arjun Makijani - nuclear disarmament activist
      Manning Marable - Professor of Political Economy
      Musheer Robinson - Executive Director, Black and Latin Workers Health & Safety Resource Center, Newark, NJ
      Tony To - Federation For Progress National Staff
      Kitty Tucker - Non-Nuclear World, Supporters of Silkwood

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  2. The city of Sierra Madre has treated the water dept. like a cash cow for years. Spending $ on what they wanted and not putting money back into our water infrastructure. Doug Berkshire was the city treasure for years and he told all of us this info. He was very put out about this and predicted these problems years ago. Wish he was around today to explain it all but you can ask George Maurer he knows. Bart Doyle knows the truth but you'll never hear it from him. When George Maurer was on council he asked for $5000 to do some testing and was turned down. It sounds like Arcadia did there testing because they say they have plenty of water. Wonder if that should have been our water.

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    1. and you can draw a direct line of support from Bart Doye to John Buchanan to Rob Stockley to Josh Moran to Nancy Walsh to John Harabedian

      next election let's not vote for any more lawyers or anybody endorsed by those that got us into this mess or hid it from us

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  3. Water rate increases are always about repairing rusty ancient pipes before they happen. Afterwards they are used to fund pensions.

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  4. Natter on all you want about water but no one worries about water until the well runs dry. It is certainly true that Sierra Madre's water infrastructure is pretty darn old, as is all of the USofAs. So what is the plan here? Dig it up a chunk at a time and fix it? Hum? Looks like that is option number 1.

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    1. Looks like it was to raise the water rates to do it. But now we are waiting for more Federal funding? Hum indeed.

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    2. The City could spend some of those development impact fees on water infrastructure. Why won't they do it?

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    3. It's a mystery. About half of the impact fees (including Kensington & Sierra Place and others) have to go to water infrastructure. Slush fund, anyone?

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  5. We need solutions and answers. Please, overwhelm the council meeting tomorrow night. Plan to be there in force. They reset it hoping everyone would be out of town. Be there.

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    Replies
    1. To say what? Good job formalizing the moratoriums?

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    2. Solutions to What? The building moratorium? The water hook up moratorium? Answers to what? Has it not all ready been explained and voted on? And, I might add, approved of, by the majority of posters on this blog.

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    3. Gene Goss: I was against it before I was for it.

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  6. Water is like the bare minimum for survival and look what our over paid city hall has done to us. It wont do any good to talk to them, they have no guilt. The Johns and Doyles have ruined this town for their own interests. The home owners need to wake up to see what has and is going on. Don't you just love that big sponge across from city hall, that will be using a bit of water but city hall will be collecting the taxes so they are happy, besides they don't live here anyway, what do they care?

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  7. I guess everyone missed the words "partially funded by a grant. . . ." I've heard Inman say many, many times that in order to get funding from the Federal Government the City needs to partially fund a project. So, reserves need to be built up so the city can apply for a grant to replace or maintain another stretch of the pipe.

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    1. I believe everyone is familiar with that particular process. It is how we managed to accumulate nearly $20 million in water bond debt.

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    2. A grant is way different than a bond. smartypants.

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    3. City Staff longs for the days when they could baffle the residents. Nowadays the roles have been reversed.

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    4. Better a smartypants than a stupidpants.

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    5. No pants beats a smartypants. Woo hoo!!

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    6. Or a Noah Pants.

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    7. I resent all of this.

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  8. Smarty pants, you have to match the grant funds thus the bonds.

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    1. How much was the match? And since the Fed money is from days of yore, when was it committed? The need for this particular project is fairly recent, so the timeline is problematic.

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  9. Just a different kind of rusty pipe.

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  10. Mountain Trail water main work. Not much happening actually. One lonely soul using an asphalt cutting machine for part of the morning .Other 'workers' watching. No backhoe/digger in sight. Lots of parking restrictions of course. And they picked Trash Pickup day to start the project !.They seemed to have gone home-sick of moving trash bins?
    The Cadillac Health Plan - I doubt Jose chose it nor demanded it. Some complacent Management selected a plan that probably give a juicy commission/kick back -please tell me I am wrong and the outrageous premium is market rate for the risk/benefits provided. Either way, let's target those responsible and not give the impression Jose and others are receiving a lavish benefit -it is just a lavish price that they did not ask for?
    Tax & Spend - the part missed is that when $1 is collected as tax ,the "management fee" incurred by the Govt is huge. Generally accepted conversion rate is 33 cents of real benefit for every $1 collected. That is a huge problem!

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    Replies
    1. Wow. The watermaster has a PR rep to post on The Tattler?

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    2. The WM is as much a part of 1:48 describes as anything else. Government is a scam.

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    3. Disagree 2:05. I think the comment is more in support of the working man and against administration.
      And 1:48, of course they went home early.

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    4. It was a warm day.

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    5. So the comment was in support of the working man who went home early. Huh?

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    6. Taking until October to lay 2,500 feet of pipe probably would require less working men than will be showing up at the site.

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