Monday, October 19, 2015

Big Questions for Tonight's City Council Special Meeting on Water Conservation

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Sierra Madre's water conservation problems are due to pipe leaks and shoddy infrastructure. Blaming the residents is BS. - Reader comment 10/18

We had a pretty lively conversation about this here yesterday. I personally think it is the biggest issue that Sierra Madre faces these days, and will remain so for quite some time. A city that allowed its water infrastructure to decay to such a sorry state, so much so that it runs the risk of incurring huge fines from Sacramento because it is structurally incapable of both enforcing and complying with state water conservation mandates, has to be a matter for serious concern.

Can a city incapable of telling just how much of its water is lost to infrastructure issues really claim the authority to fine residents over water misuse? How exactly would they ever be able to tell? These are some of the questions that need to be asked. Fortunately we were able to obtain the following e-mail from Barry Gold. It went out to the City Council yesterday and pretty much nails it.


Hopefully tonight's meeting will not see City Hall slide into its usual "blame the residents" comfort zone and ignore what are some of the real issues involved in this community's failure to reach its state mandated water conservation goals.

Police Department Law Suits

The issue of Sierra Madre PD lawsuits came up recently as part of the discussion on the proposed double digit utility tax ballot initiative being considered by the City Council. As you know, it would be the third such initiative in as many elections, with much of the money raised going to the Police Department. The question being why would the community want to make this kind of financial sacrifice for so legally abusive a department.

The following Pasadena Star News article was filed in August of 2009. A few of the Marilyn Diaz related lawsuits are still working their way through the courts today.


For the rest of this article click here.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

79 comments:

  1. What can be said that hasn't already been said. Our water problems seem to get bigger and the costs just keep going up. Think over the years how much of our precious water leaked out of the cities mains only to end up down the hill. This leaking has most likely caused us to run out of water and will only get worse. We keep paying for incompetent management, when is this going to stop? More UUT $ your rear. A good solid solution to fixing our leaks that don't include more money for salaries and pensions will get the residents support.

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    1. More deception in the City Manager's Staff Report.
      The leaks are (conveniently) muddled into the homeowner overuse figures presented by the City Manager. Obviously to conceal the fact that leakage from neglected water mains is the big problem.
      I support bigger fines for wasteful homeowners and landlords. But the devious presentation of the "facts" should be just another justification for firing the City Manager. Elaine's Performance Review was 'continued' last week.Hopefully someone on the City Council is at last proposing replacing Aguilar.

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    2. I disagree with the lead in. We can blame residents.

      John Buchanan, Bart Doyle, Joe Mosca - who else?

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  2. its time to say good bye
    we can no longer afford the SMPD and all their lawsuits

    the city manager and selected staff should be next

    if the city council wants to rule, then rule!

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    1. Agreed but way way too late !

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    2. how much money has Officer Amos cost the city with his incompetence?

      can we deduct it off his pension?

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  3. No police officers live in Sierra Madre and only one person on the fire department lives in town. What are we really talking about when we want to keep the SMPD? Were talking about officers that live in other cities and in a disaster may not make it back to their work place. If we had the Sheriff's Department they at least have a larger pool of officers that could respond to Sierra Madre. Also, think about getting an officer with years of experience who would love to work in our little town, not someone who wants to see some action and then can't handle the situation. And the FIRE DEPARTMENT, only one person lives in town. In an emergency where is the loyalty for a volunteer to make it to the fire station when they have a paid job that needs them after they have taken care of their family. It is time to be realistic about the police and fire, it's time to go to county where we will be getting trained, experienced personnel who know their job. For sure they would not shoot someone in the back as they got out of a SUV. It is time to save money while getting a more experienced workforce.

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    1. only in SM can an officer who completely freaks out, pulls out his weapon and shoots an unarmed man in the back gets promoted

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    2. And the story that the new Chief of Police had her home broken into by our own Police Dept while she was being sworn in at City Hall !
      And these are the people you think are protecting & serving us ?
      Time for the Sheriff.

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    3. I'm pretty sure that at least one police officer lives in Sierra Madre.

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    4. Will you please double check the FD roster for who lives in town. The chief lives in town and the liaison to CERT lives in town. Someone else newly retired from Pasadena FD has lived in town for years and is now a FD volunteer. Others?

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  4. Why should we be loyal to a police department that is not loyal to Sierra Madre? A police force that sues the city is not a police department that I want, especially one that costs us more money.

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    1. If you have had dealings with SMPD as a victim, what proportion of residents were satisfied?
      I for one have been utterly astonished by their incompetence several times.

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    2. Did even fingerprint the mirror where the thieves opened the closet door. I could see the fingerprint.

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  5. Sierra Madre could cut to the chase and just declare bankruptcy thus allowing old obligations to fall away and clean house and start a new?

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    1. How about just sell the water company and let private industry repair it? The argument that we would have no control over water rates is ridiculous since we have no control over them now. The prices just keep going up year after year, and things just keep getting worse. We're about one step from having to go to a well with a bucket as it is.

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    2. Would anyone buy it?

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    3. The cost to properly run the system is going to be expensive. We're paying an even higher price for not getting serious about maintaining our aquifer when it breached 500 feet years and years ago. Pointing a finger at the city is all well and good, but it doesn't put water back in the ground or fix the pipes. The state doesn't care if we think the fault is our city government and not the citizens. They'll assess huge fines regardless. We can scream and shout and say the government or the water company should have to pay those fines and not the citizens, this seems pretty stupid, as the money comes from the citizens one way or another at the end of the day regardless.

      Everyone talks and talks about how the city has wasted away our money, but the main thing that they've wasted our money on is a local police force which many citizens want to pay more for compared to an outsourced one. It may not be a financially smart move, but the problem is a schism within the desires of the citizens, not City Hall forcing a private police force on the citizenry.

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    4. The main objective of BK would be to get rid of the City employees. Yes there are a few good ones but the higher in the management structure you go, the worse they get.
      This is a job the CC should have done.
      The BK process will also do it but it is expensive and painful.
      Eventually the whole Ponzi scheme collapses under it's own weight. Just a question of time.A very painful and expensive time for the residents of Sierra Madre.

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    5. Yes, but the problem goes beyond schism you wisely identify.
      The challenge and solution is to educate the voters who are so ill informed.
      The low info voter does not see a connection between bloated costs at City Hall and his cost of living. I find this particularly so with renters. Educating the electorate is the big challenge for us.

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    6. No! You don't want to repeat Claremont's mistake. They are trying to buy back their water dept.

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    7. Desperate situations lead to desperate solutions.

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    8. @ 1:16 PM at least Claremont doesn't look like a cross breed of a weed patch,dust bowl,and hoarders .

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  6. A city south of SF sold to a private company. The results were so bad that the citizens forced a buy back, we would have even less say with a private, at least now we can vote someone in that will take care of the problem, excuse me, we would need to vote in 5 that would take care of the problem. Alert, a higher UUT is not going to fix the problem.

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  7. On a 99 year contract I would buy it, or even a 50 year. A lot of work needs to take place before positive results can be seen. Aren't we paying off a bound for something to do with our water?

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  8. Businesses should no longer be exempt from paying

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    1. Waterworks??? How much do they pay? Was their allocation cut by 30%? I also have a pool but the city did not give me a break. Same goes for the laundry in town. Do they pay fines?

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  9. You do realize that blaming the residents is where the money, is, right?

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  10. Residents have shown that they will pay but not for results like we have been getting. Council needs to do their job and seriously look at management who brings them options that haven't worked and still asking for more money.

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  11. Barry is right, we must figure out how much water is leaking from our 7.5 miles of rusty pipes.

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    1. Yes, Barry is correct and well intentioned.
      But the problem is not leaking pipes.
      The problem is the people who allowed the pipes to deteriorate without remediation.
      Until we get rid of the bad actors at City Hall and on the CC ,nothing significant will be achieved.
      I applaud the Golds for their polite and noble efforts but appeasement never works with really bad opponents.

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    2. Years of neglect have brought us to this point. It would be nice if the city would admit to its decades of poor water company decision making and take the blame. After all, that is where the buck really stops. Continuing to beat up the residents is not very productive.

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    3. Pacivity invites agression. ...always when your dealing with mean spirited dishonest people

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  12. The city manager suggests that money earned by the water department in fines and penalties remain with the water dept. BUT the money budgeted for the water dept. stay in the general fund. That fine and penalty money is $155,000.00. It should go to infrastructure not the general fund. There is still room to cut jobs in the city. The first should be the city manager.

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    1. The water problem will not be solved by shuffling money from one part of the accounts to another.
      This is typical of Elaine Aguilar's deception. The gullible ones on the CC(are you listening John?) fall for this devious nonsense. Meanwhile the City Manager continues to bloat salaries+benefits and needless hires.
      What more evidence does the CC need to dump Elaine ? She is incompetent,dishonest and a disaster for Sierra Madre.

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    2. Disaster is an understatement.

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  13. We need the Sheriff to take over now. Then the law suits will end.

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    1. I think you mean future law suits will end ?
      The existing ones will cost us a fortune to settle.
      Most are down to the utter incompetence and opportunism of our Police Dept.Yes they are the criminals here ! If we had a competent City Attorney, these frivolous SMPD sponsored lawsuits would have been dismissed long ago.
      After all this hostility from SMPD to the citizens, why would anyone want them?

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    2. The Lamdin Committee studying the possibility of switching to the sheriff is stacked against that idea. They will recommend to the city council that we keep our own police dept.

      This is as big a mistake as the council members of 10 and 20 years ago ignoring the water pipes and leaving us to deal with the disaster.

      It needs to be said over and over again that over the years the city managers have been grossly negligent. Especially the current one.

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    3. Let's look at the numbers for like to like service. If SMPD is competitive, so be it. I doubt that they are, though.

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    4. Glenn is stubborn - he makes up his mind before hand

      He'll pretend to be open but he's extremely closed minded

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  14. Aren't most of the water meters read electronically now?

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    1. Nope, nope, nope.

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    2. And I don't want to hear that the City needs special smart meters to accommodate Mr. Gold' s request of monthly readings. It CAN be done without more added costs. Use the man power we have.

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    3. I'd rather go with the electronic meters and reduce 1-2 CalPERS positions.

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    4. I want to know if the electronic meters will be considered eligible for a CALPERS pernsion when they have exceeded their useful lifespan. If not, let's go with them. Not even a COLA to pay, right?

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  15. Harabedian says there are plans to put in electronic meters soon. Supposedly they will be faster. Of course they will be able to tell when you water and how much each time, etc. etc.

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    1. those electronic meters are under the table. wink wink, nudge nudge

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    2. I heard it will take 4 years to install all electronic water meters. I did not hear how much it will cost.

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    3. The city could get 40% of them up within 6 months.

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  16. the money spent on electronic meters could have replaced some leaky mains.

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  17. More Police Services for Less MoneyOctober 19, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    Please read the Sheriff's proposal to the city.

    Under the proposal we will save $800k a year. At the same time the Sheriff will increase patrol time (actual patrols, not desk cops) by 22% each and every year. We will also not be responsible for funding future pension obligations. While the Sheriff will provide more actual patrol hours, from 10 pm to 6 am calls will be routed out of Temple City. At all other times an liuteneant and staff will be at the SMPD substation to route calls and meet with the citizens.

    The proposal if accepted will leave the City with an additional $800k a year - representing the liberation of approximately 10% of the general fund. We can apply this surplus to the construction of a new wing on the library, a new senior center at Memorial Park, and new facilities for our youth at Heasley and Dapper Fields. Also, we will not need a tax increase.

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    1. We should not use the $800k savings for anything other then replacing the water pipes.

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    2. There should be a blue emergency phone in front of PD when it's not staffed.

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    3. don't worry. there will be a blue phone. it's actually in the proposal.

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    4. no no no

      we do not need a "new wing to the library"

      it makes more sense to annex the SM library into the Pasadena system and to keep the local library as a city funded branch

      not sure if Pasadena would want our library but it's silly for us to keep it when we have plenty of quality libraries near us

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    5. Let's get ready to spend $800k (a year)!October 19, 2015 at 7:58 PM

      The point is that these dream projects can all be funded if we decide to buy 22% more patrol hours for 25% less money. All it takes is (I) the willingness to present the money facts, and (ii) a bit of courage.

      Supporters of the library, seniors, and our little league should line up behind the sheriff's proposal and get their funding requests ready to go!

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  18. I am not a forensic guy, but can't the City determine overall non-governmental usage by taking all the city bills and adding the usage for each current period. Then the city can compare that non-governmental usage to the base year by performing the same exercise for the base year.

    If that is done the shortfall, if any, in water conservation by the city due to its failure to maintain adequate water lines etc. will be identified.

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    1. Yes! The city has all the data they need to do this calculation. They know how much they get from MWD and therefore how much goes out the main pipes. All residences are metered and billed, so that is accounted for. They should have an idea how much gets used by the City itself, in parks, facilities, (schools?), etc. Hopefully someone is estimating how much goes out the hydrants for flushing. Whatever is left over is seeping into the ground from leaky pipes. As you suggest, they can compare the current numbers with last year to see how much additional is being wasted in new leaks.

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    2. To know how much water is leaking from our old pipes we need to know how much we all use and compare that to the total amount MWD sends us. The problem is we read half the meters on even months and the other half on odd months.

      So in June we get the April and May usage for half the city. In July we get the May and June usage from the other half. We never know how much was used by the entire city for the same one month period. That is why we need to read all the meters one the same day each month.

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  19. The city did install electronic meters in parts of town but not 100% was accomplished before they ran out of money. The company that made those meters is out of business, has no more of that stock or somewuch thing. You can tell if you meter is being read by the handheld computer...you will see an "antenna" on the cover. This is not the same as a smart meter that you can read for yourself from your home computer.

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  20. I was at the Temple City police station last week 3 pm on a Mondsy. I was sixth in line. The police office said it was not a busy day.

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    1. And your point is?

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    2. There are no dumb comments . . .exceptOctober 19, 2015 at 2:32 PM

      As reflected at page 52 of the Sheriff's proposal, at 3 pm on a Monday you would be going to the Sheriff staffed police station located next to Sierra Madre City Hall - not to Temple City.

      You could go from there to buy coffee at Cycle de Pro or a smoothie at the Sierra Madre Juice Company.

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  21. The point is all the lies of how underserved we would be if we were policed by the LA County Sheriff's Department has to do with response time. We have a Police Station in town which would become a LASD station. I think a lot of top notch sheriffs would qualify to serve their shift in our town.

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    1. I can count on one finger how many of our officers would qualify for the Sheriff's department and that's a stretch

      guess which finger I'm holding up to the SMPD union?

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  22. I just got an insert with my Butte County Tax bill. Their verison of fighting mansionization is: Butte County Right to Farm Ordinance, Butte County Code , Chapter 35. To whit: to conserve, protect, enhance and encourage farming operations...residents or users of property located near an agricultural operation on agricultural land may at times be subjected to inconvenience or discomfort arising forn that operation ... it will not be considered a "nusance" and residents of nearby property should be prepared to accept such inconvenience (noise, dust, smell, any time of the day or night)... and accept the normal and necessary aspects of living in a county with a strong rural character...

    So this is a way to cut through the complaints that will come when a chunk of land next to a farm is turned into a housing tract. Likewise, just rework the language and you can make a case for coming to live in a land that has a stong mid-century, California ranch house character. Come on, Arcadia, you can do it.

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  23. To add to the shame and incompetence that Rule Sierra Madre City Hall, today is their day in Court with the Hildreths.
    https://sterlingoak.wordpress.com/
    If the City wins I shall be ashamed of the way the City ,in our name (!) hounded these people.
    If the City looses I want the fool who promoted and persisted this stupid case to resign.
    Anyone on the CC even care about this? If so, please speak up.

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  24. Dear Governor Brown,

    The city of Sierra Madre has failed under mandate to reduce water usage by ?? %. Due to mismanagement we the residents will be footing the bill for the fines you will be imposing on the city. Over the years our water system has not been updated and now the leaky pipes are really the cause of us not meeting the required reductions you have requested. Please reconsider the fines levied against our city so that we residents can require our city management to spend the money to do the repairs that have not been performed, thus causing our not meeting your requests. We are a town of only 11,000 people and have been working to vote in a City Council that will hire a better manager who will spend the money on repairs. Our residents have been paying the highest taxes in the state and are struggling like a lot of cities are. It is not easy when monies have consistently not been put into our infrastructure. If you drive through our city and review our water bills you will see it is not the residents who are in violation of your requirements but it is the city who have misused money collected from our water bills.

    Again, please reconsider the fines against the city of Sierra Madre and we citizens promise to cause management to start repairing our system.

    Respectfully,

    Citizens of the City of Sierra Madre

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  25. meeting delayed. harabedian in traffic. caroline is talking about local bears. harabedian here. A fair amount of people. The usuals of course but some not known to me. several staff here. city manager: long agenda-water discussion-special study sessions recommended. 5 parts of her agenda-wants direction on how to proceed.capoccia #1-5-3 important. taking #2 first-mr. inman-water mains are failing. norm 1 leak a day. increase of 1100% over 2013 for leaks. reading all the stuff in managers report. 3 mil to fix the pipes. flushing costs 670.000.00. more city managers report. list of areas where plans exist from 2001 that was never funded. cost: 627,700.00. staff says to proceed with this. phase 279,00. funding from reserves or general funds. 2.3 m reserves in water fund. suggests more legal fees. Harabedian-what's best bang for our buck? over 6 m-1 year. Inman answers what's phase 1-2. Inman suggests lining-fire hose type material placed in pipe, heated conforms to pipes. better flow. section of pipe can be done in a week. guaranteed for 50 years. Harabedian-are other cities using it? Inman-fairly new-vendor not well known here-coming to L.A. in november

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  26. Goss-we're not injecting zinc are we? Inman says no. we will have to use the zinc orthophosphate. delmar-website only has 1 year guarantee-Inman says all give 1 year. the material is guaranteed for longer. This is the only company doing this type of lining.

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  27. this is going to be a boring meeting. Capoccia-how much can we take from capital reserves? how would we make a decision on what we can use? elaine now robbing peter to pay paul. revenues trending down. duh! no easy solution. people already leaving.

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  28. C'mon! Here's another chance for residents to cough up! Another water rate increase because the last one didn't cover infrastructure Sell bonds even though our rating is junk. Then blame it on the residents.

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  29. What were the last couple of water rate increase used for if not infrastructure?

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  30. There is so much hot air coming out of this bunch. blah,blah,blah. Delmar mentioned we don't trust them and she is so right! aguilar is talking about how state sets fines, etc.

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  31. violation from state-survey has to be done sent to state. draft response before CC for their approval. Inman-addressed the questions the state asked. may want to modify it because the state will use this info to determine what steps to take. I don't have exhibit C from managers report -did they include water leaks?- they've managed to kind of empty the room. probably ten people have gone. elaine says the citizens that are out of compliance comply we would meet our state mandate. That's including leaks. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT.

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  32. If you go to the city website and type in "Raftelis" nothing comes up.

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  33. Hello, Governor Brown?

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