Who really owns our resources?

13 Sep

I wrote a letter to the Marysville Appeal Democrat to thank the Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates group for going to so much trouble making their formal complaint to the CPUC. 

I was glad to hear Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates is protesting Cal Water’s proposed rate increase. I was surprised more people aren’t protesting, until I spoke to some friends of mine recently who had never read the rate increase notices contained in their water bills.

A couple of years ago, Cal Water sent a notice in our water bill that they were raising rates to get us to conserve water. Last summer, they announced we conserved too much, that they “could not meet operational costs,” and would have to raise rates again. That notice said, “Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office Personnel …” $423,000 for “healthcare, pensions and retiree health benefits for district personnel,” $415,000 “for General Office operation expenses,” $395,000 to “retain quality employees in the district.” Last, and least, only $163,000 for “infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016.”

These rate hikes aren’t about improving service, but about paying for overly generous salaries, benefits and pension packages. That is not justifiable in an area where the average family lives on less than $40,000, but the Cal Water management employees whose pensions we’re paying enjoy salaries between $78,000 and $100,000 a year.

I hope more people will ask Cal Water for the balance sheet — but you might also want to read those little notices they send in your bills.

Juanita Sumner


It is very depressing to me that I can’t get people in Chico to mount some sort of effort to turn this rate hike back. As I wrote above, it’s all about paying the pensions, mostly management. Do you make $80,000 a year?  Will you get a pension when you are too old to work, paid for by the public? The statistics say no, most people around here live on less than $40,000/year and have little or no retirement savings. Their homes are upside down or worth little more than they paid, and their kids are being turned away from college either because Chico schools did not prepare them adequately or because their parents don’t have the money to put them through the sausage factory of the CSU system. 

I was surprised to get a pretty good conversation out of my letter  – here are the responses I got:

  • Bill Simmons · California State University, Chico

    Mr. Binninger hit the nail right on the head. Its about a 121.80 % rate increases on Marysville’s ratepayers in the last 10 years. it’s about the run-a-away escalation of water rates. I submit to you (the readers) that in the private sector the costs incurred for continuing ed. are often born by the employee and not by the ratepayers as is the case with Cal Water who asking for a rate increase to foot the bill. For those of you who are truly interested in Cal-Waters’ proposal and the Department of Ratepayer Advocacy analysis for Cal Waters’ proposal, log on to: http://www.dra.ca.gov/Cal_Water_GRC_DRA_Testimony_page.aspx.
    It makes for a eye opening reading. Furthermore, I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life to suggest that the size of a town is a pre-qualifier to reasonable and affordable water rates. At least the rate payer would have a voice in the rates if it were a mutual water agency and not a state regulated private for profit water co.
    Reply · 4 ·  · September 9 at 3:49pm
  • Bill Simmons · California State University, Chico

    Great job Water Warrior Juanita Sumner. Keep up the good fight for the ratepayers of Chico. Know that you are not alone in this battle for reasonable and affordable water rates. This movement is getting up steam throughout California. Who Rah!
    Reply · 4 ·  · September 9 at 4:01pm
  • Mike Healy ·  Top Commenter · Penn Valley, California

    While I understand your frustration retaining trained licensed water and wastewater operating employees is a challenge for each and every utility district in the state of Ca. continuing education in order to maintain licensure in these professional fields is a must as is being competitive in each and every category of employment benefit packages. The fact is that gaining license requires extensive study in areas such as chemistry and mathematics and systems operations, maintenance and repair and a long term commitment to practical experience, AKA “On the Job” experience in one category prior to being certified and licensed. One final fact for you to consider for each 5 operators who retire only 3 applicants pass the licensure tests so the employment field is hardly what I would consider sustainable and it is for this reason that the costs you detailed in my humble view are costs of doing business and not fluff, look at just about any utility, private or public and you will see the same manpower costs and minimal CIP expenditures. Tell your kids to study chemistry, math and learn mechanical theory and they might have a job that may be forever in demand.
    Reply · 1 ·  · September 9 at 6:04am
    • Lou Binninger ·  Top Commenter · Marysville, California

      The point of the letter was the ridiculous out of line rates, not that you had to attend school to work with water. Yuba City, Linda and Olivehurst comply with the same regulations as Cal Water-controlled cities like Marysville, Oroville and Chico while using the same quality professional operators. The water costs are nearly 50% less in the areas where Cal Water does not provide the service. Oroville people are beginning to rise up about the rates. We were wondering about the Chico residents. Now, we know at least one that is paying attention.
      Reply · 8 ·  · September 9 at 7:48am
    • Eric Royer ·  Top Commenter · Florida State University

      It seems that marysville is too small an operation to have its own affordable water supplier then. The costs need a larger population base to support them.
      Reply · 1 ·  · September 9 at 8:34am
    • Lou Binninger ·  Top Commenter · Marysville, California

      Eric Royer Say What?!
      Reply · 2 ·  ·September 9 at 10:28am

      Mike Healy, above, is saying that if we want water, we can just expect to pay for it. He works for a group called “Global Water Resources,” which has just secured some kind of contract with the city of Grass Valley. What I’m reading, is a guy who looks out for his own ass. My family has wells on a couple of our properties, and it doesn’t cost a fraction of what we pay Cal Water at our other rentals  to keep our wells tasting and TESTING great.  Here at my apartment, we have Cal Water, and it comes out of the tap tasting like PV Pool, complete with pee! We’ve seen the “technician” coming out of our neighborhood well house carrying an empty bottle of Chlorox – seems “technology” hasn’t changed since I was a child Mike – my grandpa used Chlorox to sanitize our well and pump too, and he didn’t have any college education. 

      And every time we get those notices telling us how much CRAP is in our Cal Water, I tell you what, I thank God we have those technicians telling us what kind of poison they’re pumping into our houses! 

      Thanks for chiming in Mike, gave me something to make fun of. You bureaucrats will do anything to protect the trough. 

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