Mod: I am pretty sure that this was all set into motion by the presence of residents unhappy about their water bills at the last City Council meeting. As you may recall, there was one resident in particular who had one in excess of $1,000 due to their being billed at the winter rate in the middle of summer. However, it appears that this will not be limited to just that topic, as important as it is. I wrote to City Manager Engeland and this is what I learned.
Tattler: Will the bond debt and its influence on infrastructure repairs and water bills be discussed?
City Manager Engeland: I'm sure it will. We are setting this up as a question and answer session on any water topic people have--though I anticipate we will answer non-water questions as well.
So far people have said they are going to ask questions on the (Prop) 218 process, bond debt, water loss, UUT, and how we compare to peer cities with regards to rates and fixed charges.
We aren't preparing a presentation for the meeting, but will have slides on topics we expect to be asked about. My guess is we will have multiple questions on debt and how it drives rates.
Mod: That would certainly be interesting. As I am sure you know by now, Sierra Madre's water bond debt is in the many millions of dollars, and does take hundreds of thousands of dollars away from needed water projects in town every year. All at the expense of city water ratepayers. Unbelievably enough, an open public discussion about this with city officials would be a first. A true "bringing the elephant out into the open" moment for sure. Of course, some bold individual will need to bring it up. As a friendly reminder, here is a schedule of that debt. Due to the city's bizarre repayment scheme, the cost of the interest on this particular water bond alone is well over $8 million dollars, and is being paid in yearly increments through the distant year of 2034. Payments on the principal do not begin until 2020, a full 16 years into the repayment schedule.