Sunday, March 29, 2015

Washing Down Your Tax Hike With Some Yellow Water

If you were to read the Mountain Views News this weekend, you might think that City Hall was responding to a post we made last week about yellow water and the danger to children from nitrification. Something that arrives with the increased heat of summer.

Of course, the MVN article in question is actually a word for word regurgitation of something that was issued Friday as part of the City Manager's report, so we're going to quote from that instead. The rule of thumb at The Tattler being that if you're going cite something, you should always go with the original content source. Why even mess with the cut and paste "journalism" of people who can't write their own articles?

Here is how we wrote about it last week:

Yellow water is on people's minds again. Gary Hood brought in jars of San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Gold for those seated at the dais to check out. Despite assurances from the folks in the Water Department that this problem had been fixed, water is obviously still yellow for some in town. Nobody seems to have heard too much from the consultant hired by the city lately, either. Perhaps Dr. Hélène Baribeau is concentrating her vast energies on spending the $50,000 she was given to solve these problems?

Remember, it was just a year ago that people (including even City Hall) were talking about topics like Nitrification and something called "Blue Baby Syndrome." We wrote about that three times here last June. It was a big deal.

Spring is the time of year when the nitrification of our water can begin to become a problem. When warmer temperatures, along with the chloramine-rich water pumped into this city by our substitute supplier, mix it up in some of the more low flow rusted out pipes in town, rather awful things can happen. 

In other words, after months of telling residents that the water quality had gotten better, and then inappropriately taking credit for it, the Sierra Madre Water Department still said nothing about problems that would soon be returning once the weather got warmer. Which it has, and unseasonably early this year. You can only wonder what 90 degree temperatures in March are going to mean when July and August roll around. 

Then lo and behold, and right after our report, City Hall broke its silence and began talking about yellow water. It had to have been a coincidence, right?

This from Friday's City Manager's report, which also showed up on the front page of the Mountain Views News on Saturday with little additional comment.

WATER TREATMENT UPDATE
Dr. Helene Baribeau, under contract to the City has two concurrent studies under way on our behalf. The first, a pilot corrosion test is designed to determine the best long-term treatment for the imported MWD water to eliminate corrosion-related water discoloration and odor. The second study is to assess the possibility for the city to blend its own free-chlorinated well water with the chloraminated MWD water without reaching chlorine breakpoint, the resulting disinfection by-products (trihalomethanes, THM4; and haloacetic acids, HAA5) that are likely to be found should breakpoint chlorination occur, and to provide recommendations.

Procurement of test rack materials and fabrication of the test racks took a good deal longer than expected, particularly due to delays in receiving the mild steel test “coupons,” in designing a stand-alone water supply system for the test racks, and in stabilizing water flows through the test racks. The corrosion testing is now under way, with test coupons having been immersed in the subject waters and treatment types for over a month. Because corrosion is a slow process, the testing is as well. The first analysis of this testing is scheduled for April 6, 2015. The final of eight analysis is scheduled for July 13th. However Dr. Baribeau has indicated that she should be able to provide the city a preliminary report in June, based on some of the early coupon tests that will occur in May.

The study of blending MWD water with the City’s well water has only recently been implemented. The actual sample testing will begin March 30, with completion of that phase of the work by April 6. 

Analytical results will be obtained almost immediately on April 6th, for everything but disinfection by- products. The DBP analysis requires 2 weeks, which will set the likely release of a draft report for the first week in May. At this point, from discussions with Dr. Baribeau staff is not confident that a workable blending plan can be developed. However, the study will also touch on the possibility of chloramination of the city’s well water, which would allow for blending the two sources.

Now that sounds all in charge and proactive, but does it actually gibe with what we'd been hearing over the last several months? That being the city's yellow water problem was under control, and Bruce Inman hadn't heard of any new complaints? No new complaints in Bruce-speak meaning things are just hunky dory.

The actual reason for the change is weather is cooler in the winter, and that means nitrification is not as much a factor. Yellow water and its many associated ills really gets rolling once the weather warms up. Something that City Hall knew all along, but instead preferred to take credit for something they didn't have all that much to do with.

So suddenly we're back at square one. Which, despite everything we've been hearing these last few months, the Water Department never actually moved from. Rather we were told what they thought we wanted to hear.

Are you ready for UUT #3?

The Mountain Views News seems to be Mayor Harabedian's own personal agenda publicity platform. And now that he has decided to try his hand at raising utility taxes in Sierra Madre (boldly following in the footsteps of his illustrious tax happy predecessors, Josh Moran and Cha Cha Walsh), what better place to try out his passive-aggressive approach to tax advocacy?

Here is how the Mayor had Susan Henderson prepare and publish his tax hike pitch.


Two things that immediately jump out.

1) How can City Hall claim not to know how taxpayers here really feel about utility tax increases after they voted two times in a row to reject them? Was there a hidden message in that somewhere? Does NO actually mean YES in the enchanted land of tax increaser double-speak?

2) It is not the responsibility of the tax paying residents of Sierra Madre to come up with ways for City Hall to live within its budgets. That is what city employees are being paid to do. It is their job. But, quite obviously, this is hardly what these proposed "organization meetings" are really all about. Rather they are part of a passive-aggressive marketing strategy designed to promote a substantial utility tax increase.

Just say no. Again. For the third time.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com 

43 comments:

  1. You posting your baby pictures now? Sweet!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sick children are your thing?

      Delete
    2. 6:33 didn't get any sleep last night.

      Delete
    3. Must have a guilty conscience.

      Delete
  2. I think a 6% utility tax is fine. If the city mngr cannot find a way to make that work, then we need to find someone who can.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Two things jump out at me regarding the budget statement: why community groups and why only services cut? Do services include salaries and perks? The water consultant's fees could be cut. I still have orange not yellow but orange water. I have rust on my stainless steel dinner ware, I have rust inside my stainless steel dishwasher, I have really, really hard to clean spots from water left on counters or glass. Obviously, decent water is a service that has been cut. I am so sick of this run around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'd think they'd want to level.

      Delete
  4. When is Baribeau's deal up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know how long she is contracted for, but she will have been here one year on June 10th.

      Delete
    2. Here is the staff report on Baribeau's hiring. I think the date was actually June 24. It also looks like it wasn't a time deal, but based on the completion of projects. The final ones are being done now.
      http://66.92.220.85:8090/tylercm/eagleweb/downloads/6___Award_of_Contract_to_Baribeau_Environmental_Engineering.pdf?id=DOC161S12.A0&parent=DOC161S12

      Delete
    3. This is how it was communicated on the agenda for the June 10 meeting. Looks like the entire package including study costs was closer to $100,000.

      DISCUSSION –
      RECOMMENDATION TO AWARD A PROFESSIONAL SERVICES CONTRACT TO BARIBEAU ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING IN THE AMOUNT NO TO EXCEED $45,539 FOR ENGINEERING SERVICES TO PERFORM A CORROSION CONTROL STUDY, REVIEW THE EXISTING NITRIFICATION ACTION PLAN, AND EVALUATE THE POSSIBLITY OF BLENDING IMPORTED WATER WITH LOCAL GROUNDWATER AND TO PROVIDEANADDITIONALTOTAL APPROPRIATION OF $50,550 IN WATER FUND RESERVES TO FUND ENGINEERING AND STUDY COSTS
      7. DISCUSSION -
      LOCAL INPUT ON SCAG’S GROWTH FORECAST FOR SIERRA MADRE
      Recommendation that the City Council open a public hearing, and adopt Resolution No. 14-45, a Resolution of the City Council confirming the levy of assessments for fiscal year 2014-2015 in connection with District No. 3, District No. 5, Community Facilities District No. 1, E. Miramonte Sewer District, and E. Bonita Sewer District for Fiscal Year 2014-2015and approve the Engineer’s Report for Fiscal Year 2014-2015.
      Recommendation that the City Council adopt Resolution No. 14-47 Modifying the part-time hourly wages in the City of Sierra Madre Classification Plan and Salary Matrix and Resolution No. 14-48 eliminating the percentage paid by the employer of the employees’ contribution to the California Public Employees Retirement System for part- time unrepresented staff.
      Recommendation that the City Council provide staff with direction.
      Recommendation that the City Council provide staff with direction.
      Recommendation that the City Council approve a professional services contract in an amount not to exceed $45,539 with Baibeau Environmental Engineering for engineering services to
      a) Develop a corrosion control study aimed at elimination of water discoloration to be approved by the California Department of Health; and
      b) Review and update if necessary the City’s existing nitrification control plan; and
      c) Evaluate the possibility of blending imported water with local groundwater; and
      Approve additional appropriations in a total amount of $50,550 to cover the not to exceed professional services contract cost ($45,539) and corrosion testing startup costs ($5,011).

      Delete
  5. Elaine never met a tax she didn't like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The irony is it will be Mayor Capoccia that will have to deliver on the tax hike. The fellow who was elected as a fiscal conservative tax fighter will now be going to community gatherings and asking people what they think should be cut.

      Delete
    2. If our city manager would only figure out that her long term interest is best served by living within a reduced budget.

      Delete
    3. It doesn't have much to do with services, it's the money that goes to places like CalPERS.

      Delete
  6. Easy.
    The first cut is the incompetent Staff who can't(or won't?) work within a budget.
    1. Sierra Madre City Manager -Elaine Aguilar
    2. Director of Public Works -Bruce Inman
    Then,
    3. Recall any Councillor who votes in favor of any tax hike.

    ReplyDelete
  7. When the voters turned down a tax increase twice, does that mean they wanted the city to try again?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Look at it this way. In 2012 the UUT was going to go up to 12%. It failed. In 2014 that number was 10%. Failed. In 2016 Harabedian is asking for 8%. That probably won't work, either. Based on this 2% drop in the ask per election, in 2018 the number will be 6%. Which is what the voters asked for in 2012, 2014 and 2016. At that time the process will be finished.

      Delete
    2. Great breakdown 9:26. Very funny, and true.

      Delete
    3. And people say the process doesn't work. Bah!

      Delete
    4. It works. Just takes multiple repetitions and enormous amounts of time.

      Delete
    5. And money. How much does it cost each time the city puts a UUT measure on the ballot?

      Delete
  8. The blending water is a bad idea to me. Why mix our very good water with the contaminated stuff? Do we really have enough in the wells to add a meaningful amount?
    And just in case no one has figured it out yet - don't drink the water, and don't cook with it either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably a money thing. Less water they have to buy from the SGVMWD Chlorameanies.

      Delete
  9. We've kind of already given more of a UUT because we now have to buy bottled water.

    ReplyDelete
  10. We're in a "process" situation. The water company infrastructure is too decrepit and the yellow water problem cannot be fixed without spending millions. So we get all this gobbledegook from Inman and his consultant instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true that hindsight is 20-20, but you can't help but wonder, if we had had a qualified head of the water department, maybe the conservation efforts would have begun years earlier and we'd still have ours.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps the cost of the water superintendent's health insurance plan is so high due to exposure to so much yellow water?

      Delete
    3. maybe if the water dept had a qualified head the revenue would have used to maintain the insfastructure. prepare for the future and drill deeper wells, replace old pipes ect.

      Delete
    4. Bruce Inman is responsible for the loss of the water department.
      Yes, mother nature has made it a problem that calls for master level skills.
      But Inman was at the helm.

      Delete
  11. Since we've switched to the chloraminated MWD water, the water/sugar mixture in our hummingbird feeders turns cloudy much faster than it used to. Does anyone know if this is related? Am I going to have to start using store brought water in the feeders?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could experiment and see if there's a difference.

      Delete
    2. What would happen if the test fails?

      Delete
    3. 11:38, I don't want to make the hummingbirds sick. Maybe the cloudy water is a sign of some bacteria that happens because of the water change.

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Chloraminated water is as safe as chlorinated water for plants and animals that do not live in water. Chloramine is only dangerous for fish, reptiles, shellfish, and amphibians that take water directly into their bloodstream."
      http://gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/4427/chlorine-vs-chloramine-both-harmful

      Please be nice.

      Delete
  13. Mayor Harabedian. what is so difficult to process about the fact that voters have twice ( that's 2 times) turned down an increase in the UUT Tax? I can readily process this: the people do not want their taxes raised!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why the excuses from Elaine? We need to call for an outside audit. I'd pitch in to pay for that. Many of us read the general plan. It didn't take us weeks to do it. We look up data and present it in some way all the time. Most cities have boiler plate formats. How long does that take to fill out? It was wrong for the Stonegate (or whatever they call themselves) to put in all those applications at one time. If there are time constraints to getting them done, then the City Council should amend those rules to aid the staff. Something is rotten at City Hall and every city council member is now covering for them in some degree. Maybe I need to camp out at City Hall and watch what all these employees do in the space of 4-5 hours. This is driving me crazy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For reasons that are not clear, at least to me, Elaine has fought the General Plan update every single step of the way.

      Delete
  15. The only thing that really scares Inman and Aguilar is the risK of Sierra Madre declaring bankruptcy. A defunct,unsanitary water distribution system would tip us over the edge to BK. Why do they fear BK ? Because that is the only thing that can reduce their lavish pension and health benefits.That is all they care about -not our town .
    So go BK to solve the senior personnel problem.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I didn't know I needed a "new" complaint! I figured my "old" standing complaint would suffice considering I am still paying for YELLOW WATER! Maybe It;s time to go Erin Brokovich?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am Gary's neighbor, why didn't you post my comment? Do you guys censor comments you don't like for some reason? Only been reading the blog since Gary mentioned it, didn't know that you guys were skewed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forwarded your rather ridiculous charge to Gary to get his take on it. Your contention turned out to be as untrue as I thought. This is a moderated site. If you want to malign perfectly decent people, go start your own blog and do it under your name. And as always, if you don't like the commenting policy here on The Tattler, go read something else. I really don't want you here anyway.

      Delete