Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fast And Furious Sierra Madre Residents Will Face Off With City Officials About Farfetched Inflated Water Bills

Mod: This important reporting from Terry Miller comes to us via the Sierra Madre Weekly website. You can link to this article in its original setting by clicking here. This is a Part 1, so stay turned because there will be more.

Fast And Furious Sierra Madre Residents Will Face Off With City Officials About Farfetched And Inflated Water Bills (Sierra Madre Weekly): One thing that is for sure in life is death and taxes, but in Sierra Madre it is the never ending battle of people vs. the water bills, which have been growing with ferocious might ever since the drought began. People are NOT happy.

Here at this newspaper, we’ve been inundated with requests to get to the bottom of why residents’ bills have doubled or tripled in many cases and why the city officials keep blaming the massive increases on “leaks” at residents’ meters.

Rubbish say the residents:  “We can’t all have leaks…”

Residents say the city has made too many excuses why the bills jumped suddenly according to Kim Vollstedt, but offers no real answers or solution.

“They {City of Sierra Madre} have 100 excuses and none really make sense to me.  I’m a single person on a fixed income.  I can’t afford to pay 400.00 every two months for water.  I will have to shut the water OFF to my home if these bills keep up.  And isn’t that a basic human right WATER?  I mean we send money to Africa so people can have fresh clean water…yet at home we are being strangulated by our own city so they can make money to pay for what??  They are slowly fixing our infrastructure and I get we need to pay for that but isn’t that what the 70.00 meter fee is for??  Their billing isn’t fair and they refuse any reset of water allocations.  I was conserving WAY before we were forced to….I have all my water bills to prove it. They are going to average out my neighbors bill for the last 3 cycles and have them pay that…as they said they had a small toilet leak…as I don’t HAVE a leak they will do NOTHING?? How is that fair?”

Another resident said:

“I think we need to get the PUC involved as I still say there is an over charging/guestimates with usage.  I have called City Hall three times now (for three weeks) and still no answers.  Chris was the last person I spoke with and he hasn’t called me back.  My bill is due Monday and I don’t have any answers?? We can’t ALL have leaks.”

One resident on East Highland received a whopping $1,045.66 bill which is due this Monday.

City Manager Gabriel Engeland said excess water use charge was increased last May to help incentivize conservation.

On Facebook, residents are letting off steam but again seems to be falling on deaf ears. Robert K Gjerde  said, “BTW it cost me about $90 to get the $13 of water I used delivered. Something seems out of wack!”

Over the years, our friends over at Sierra Madre Tattler have devoted a huge amount of time and resources into these water woes. See: this post from 2015 (link).

Former Mayor Doug Hayes, often called the ‘voice of reason,’ offered his comprehension on the issue upon Facebook recently:

“Your water bill pays for the water that you use, the water that the City has to buy, the employees on the water department, the cost of maintaining, repairing and upgrading the water lines and the electrical usage of the pumps. Your bill also has to cover the cost of the vehicles, tools, etc. that the water department utilizes, plus the road repair that occurs when streets need to be patched.

No water enterprise can be used as a profit-making market to pay for other City needs. The money you pay for your water bill can only be spent on the needs of the water department and water usage.

The water lines are much older than most of us, therefore these water leaks and main breaks are occurring more frequently and are becoming more of a daily chore for the water department. It’s not going to correct itself. The entire City’s water line system is in rough shape and we are not using our “own” water like we were for our first 100 years. Things have changed dramatically and there’s a cost to bear.

I think we should just be darned happy we have access to another source of water other than our own. Without the access to this purchased water, this would be a big ghost town, none of our properties would be of any value and we’d end up on the cover of “Time” magazine and labeled “The Little City That Died of Thirst”.

Rather than speculate here and toss around the typical cries and rumors of “scandal”, go to the meeting that the City is having soon. Bring your questions and ask and listen. It’s much more complicated that it appears. There are strict rules about how water bills are created and there are restrictions for the use of water bill funds. This isn’t some scheme. It’s real and our city manager will have real answers.”

We contacted the city manager and he promptly returned our email and offered to meet and discuss the issue, which we will do after the Aug 9 meeting.

(End of SM Weekly article.)

I would like to add a little something here

Doug Hayes has an agenda, of course. I mean, besides trying to shut people up on Facebook about their $1,000 water bills. As an elected official back at a time when ridiculous financial mistakes were being made, then Councilman Hayes and those he aligned with politically saddled this city with millions of dollars in unnecessary water bond debt.

Below is a breakdown of that debt. This memorandum was put together by then City Manager Elaine Aguilar at the request of Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray. It contains some pretty shocking information.

Notice that the City of Sierra Madre has been making interest only payments on its 2003 water bonds, and will continue to do so through 2019. That is 16 years of absolutely no payment on the principal. This financial madness will end up costing the water ratepayers here many millions of dollars, and will continue to do so through the year 2034. It is one of the major reasons why water rates will continue to be so expensive here.

Why did they arrange to pay only the interest on these bonds through 2019? Good question. Hopefully City Manager Engeland will want to answer that question as well. Be sure to ask. Ask twice if you don't get a satisfactory answer.

Doug "Water Bonds" Hayes was termed out of his City Council seat in 2004. As one of the responsible parties for this financial boondoggle, he has no right to tell anyone anything about the cost of water in Sierra Madre. Today's absurdly high water bills are due in part to the water bond debt that Hayes helped to create. Costs that will only get far worse in 2020 when the city finally starts paying down that principal and costs begin to double, then triple.

You are paying dearly for his mistakes, and it will get worse.


sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

60 comments:

  1. This page truly has all the information I wanted about this subject and didn't know
    who to ask.

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  2. There isn't another web site that is so honest and informative as the 'Sierra Madre Tattler' now that the rats in city hall have been out'd what steps are left to remove them and start a new? Those in the past have not looked out for the best interests of the tax payers who were paying their salary and now their 'golden parachute' retirements, I would say sue the heck out of them all and take back some if not all of their ill gotten retirement gains and put it to better use and rebuild Sierra Madre.

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  3. Between the water bonds, CalPERS and the Library debacle, the hypocrisy of the old Doyle-Hayes-Stockley triumvirate knows no bounds.

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    Replies
    1. Don't forget those three and John Buchanan wanted to build a new library, which would put up into even more debt than we have.

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  4. Doug Berkshire was the treasure for Sierra Madre. A trusted and respected person who said that he would never vote for a tax in Sierra Madre. Reason is, because the city had been using the money collected for water as a "CASH COW" and spent it in other places than the water department. Through the years attempts were made at evaluating our system for improvements had been turned down and now the city wants us to pay for past poor management. There is more to the story if you have lived here long enough to see what has been done. The big break for city hall came when Joe Mosca voted to hook up to the big pipe line running down Grandview. That vote gave the city unlimited water to bill and build up the city. There is a whole lot more to these facts that as you look into it explains what the city was up to. Now what are our options?

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    Replies
    1. Doug Berkshire? How long ago was that?

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  5. The water enterprise was looted for years. In the early 2000s it was done to help get the DSP off the ground. The water bonds were used to help pay for water infrastructure for downtown development. None of it went to repair the pipes, which were as ancient then as they are now. Most if the members of the city council at that time had a big financial stake in that development happening.

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  6. Don't you all remember Bruce Inman at the park holding up a rusty pipe and explaining how the first water increase was going to repair water lines.
    We have evidence of that on many streets where you can see lines of repairs in the street, many of which have been repaired more than once. Read my lips, "No New Lines."
    As we have conserved, the revenues have decreased so the bond costs have now amounted to an egg that is almost too big to break. So goes the saga...

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  7. In looking at my latest bill I was billed 76.61 for my meter and 13.11 in UUT to deliver my 23.22 worth of water. 70% of my bill is for delivery. I've had 3 dead trees removed last week,I have 2 more dead trees that need to be removed,my frontyard and backyard are both dirt. I water with buckets from my sink and take cold showers in the backyard to water my Avocado tree (1 of 4 remains alive) I feel like a sharecropper in the late 1800's

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    1. Big lot you have there. If the water isn't coming from the sky to keep non-natives alive do you think that is the cities job, or that they should get transported water cheaper to you? You seem to have conflated a few issues.

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    2. I support you 8:24, Don't let the City Hall backers get to you! I too have lost trees. They want to make you feel badly, when they have purposely mismanaged the water for years. We sharecroppers have to stick together!

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  8. This is why Kurt Zimmerman called for a forensic audit. We still need one, maybe now more than ever. If the city wants more money from the residents to save this place, then they better tell everyone the truth. The old baloney from the likes of Doug Hayes just won't do it anymore.

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    1. But is spending tax money solely to place blame a wise use of my tax dollars?

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    2. 8:29, it is a fair guess that you have not had one of the absurd overcharged water bills.

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    3. When the audit was suggested, it was John Buchanan who carried the water for the cover-up faction. His argument was that there were legally sensitive matters that could not be discussed publicly with out causing potential damage to the city.

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    4. @8:29 could you help me understand how spending money on a "forensic water audit" will resolve alleged billing errors?
      I see that the City is offering an app.for a $25.one time fee that will allow you to monitor your water usage in real time. Idk?

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    5. Yes, legally sensitive matters. Like maybe for those who floated a stupid bond issue to help fund infrastructure needed for a development project they had a personal financial stake in?

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    6. 8:57 - some people would like to know how things have gotten quite this bad. Wouldn't you like to know the truth?

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    7. The cover-up crowd is posting early today.

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    8. @9:10, I noticed that too.

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  9. We were shafted to the tune of about $1,500 over two billing cycles, but that happened more than 6 months ago. Not sure why the timing is so different. Since then, the bills have gone back to normal. But we cannot understand the variation, as our household has been pretty consistent (conservation practices in bathrooms, zero yard watering). The city came out to see if we had a leak - we did not. Curiouser and curiouser.

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    Replies
    1. I don't believe you.

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    2. Fining people is now considered a permanent revenue stream at City Hall.

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    3. Do you happen to have one of the new malfunctioning meters? Seems to me Carolyn Brown had meter problems a few years ago. Ask for her wisdom on this.

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  10. Does anyone have any idea how old these meters are? I know the one at my home is at least 40 years old. I do recall that the bill use to be a flat rate for water, sewer, and trash a long,long time ago.

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    Replies
    1. My meter is very old and works fine. House built in the 50's. I have probably paid for the cost of this meter several times over. I don't want a new smart meter , thank you.

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  11. The Doyle-Hayes-Stockley years along with the downtown investors club, has choked this town of it's life, all in the name of greed. How can these individual's look their neighbors in the face?
    Moving forward, the days of meeting up in one's garage inorder to conduct city business are ended. Thanks Doug for bring CalPERS into town.
    Hope you all sleep soundly.

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  12. When I drive by the home at the 300 block of E. Highland I wonder if I'll see a lush British garden type landscape? I hope not,but assume so,also swimming pools take a lot of water to refill,as does new construction....

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    Replies
    1. I think there is an issue between residents and the new people in town. Many old people have gotten rid of their pools or have decided not to pay for a refill, but it seems the new folks just want to keep up with the Joneses, penalties be darned, conservation be dardned. They just have to have their white picket fences with a lawn or they won't feel content. Depression is just another watering cycle away.

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    2. substantiate your claim with evidence please

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  13. The Facebook page Hayes jabbers on blocks people who disagree with him.

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    1. What Facebook page is that?

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  14. Is he for or against Bagpipe playing within city limits? Seems to be the hot item of contention there.BTW I am allowed to look but not speak on that "forum".

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  15. By making only interest payments on this water bond the City of Sierra Madre more than doubled its obligation to nearly $15 million dollars. Doug? Tell me again what I am allowed to think about this. I need a good laugh.

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  16. From Yesterday:
    Anonymous July 27, 2017 at 1:18 PM

    "9:48am. Do YOU have a problem with private property owners?
    The Monastery is all private property?"

    Yes it is and they want to develop it,we will not allow them to.If we did the revenue from Taxes and water would be helpful.

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    1. There are lots of property owners in Sierra Madre. People who own houses are property owners. They all have rights. Yesterday's post makes it sound like only developers have rights. It is a rificulous premise.

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    2. Developer rights should not be at the expense of home owners. Property values are high in Sierra Madre because homeowners fought to preserve this town. Ugly developments has no place here. We don't need to sell out the people of this town to pay for bad old debts.

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    3. Sorry it was from 2 days back and the comment was:

      AnonymousJuly 27, 2017 at 9:48 AM
      When the unused dirt lot at the Passionist center is developed the city coffers will be overflowing.
      Not sure that's an absurd premise,as the Passionist Community is the largest landowner in Sierra Madre and will develop at some point,thereby saving us.

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    4. Saving us from what? 5 years of construction, truck traffic, noise and dust?

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    5. They need to concentrate on saving souls. And preserving the beautiful property God in His wisdom placed in their hands.

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    6. Umm they bought it. "God" didn't place it in their hands.

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    7. Don't tell them that.

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  17. 9:32am. Hypocrisy!
    Homeowners and property owners have rights; if you are the Monastery you are devoid of any rights? Who made you @#₩?

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    Replies
    1. What is "@#w" supposed to mean?

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    2. I think it means "Stay off my lawn!"

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  18. 9:25am. Ja Vol Mein Kommandant!
    The Agonists are up early.

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    Replies
    1. They have a lot at stake. The ladt thing they want people talking about is their damn water bonds. Who knows, some of them could end up in the pokey!

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    2. Ok well Was ist los? smarty pants

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  19. Salaries and pensions need to be based on how well the city is being run. Run on a program that benefits us all. App to check your water usage for only $25, is that a good deal and do they use that app to check your phone out, interesting.

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    1. Apps like that are usually free. All about the money. City has big bills to pay.

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    2. Who needs a darn app? Just go to the curb, lift up the meter cover and read your meter numbers. It's in REAL TIME! lol

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  20. Sierra Madre could change all their water meters over to electronic metering with a zero error rate once they are calibrated and tuned up, customers could read their water usage via APP from the meter supplier leaks on the customers side of the meter can be found faster and lower water bills.

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    1. Baloney, keep your new smart meter. I don't want the City knowing I'm washing clothes at 3am. God knows what else the new smart appliances tell them.

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. No but I been there done that.And it's not a smart appliance,i.e.washing machine, it's an application or app.

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  21. Those smart meters are not so smart. Usage change differs from the old meters. Thirty years of same water use, but the new smart meters are reflecting a larger water usage, no leaks on my property; I am a retired plumber.

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    1. I hope you come to speak at City Hall when they try to force the public to use electronic water meters.

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  22. Mr. Mod Kinda late for today but interesting
    http://articles.latimes.com/1994-09-08/news/ga-36056_1_water-rate-increase

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  23. Good night Johnboy, goodnight Doug, good night Rob. It's been an interesting blog day!

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