Own our water?

25 Sep

Thanks again to Connie Walczak of Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates – it looks like the office of Ratepayer Advocate is looking into the water rate hikes, and we might not have to bite as big a bullet as we thought. 

But here’s something to think about – owning our own water? Read Lou Binninger’s article below, shared from the Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates Facebook page and the Territorial Dispatch out of Marysville. You should check out the TD, here’s the link:

http://www.territorialdispatch.com/

From Connie:

Below is an article in todays Territorial Dispatch, written by Lou Binninger. Please keep in mind that right now there are various percentages floating around for the proposed Cal Water increases for Marysville. Nothing has been confirmed.

This article provides a lot of food for thought.
Please share this article.

Local Water War Looming, by Lou Binninger, from the Territorial Dispatch
In the 1990s, former prosecutor Stephen Goldsmith became mayor of Indianapolis, a city that was blighted and broke. Goldsmith put city services out for competitive bid, cut costs, improved performance, reduced taxes four times and presided over $1.5 billion of infrastructure improvements in 8 years.


Today, Marysville and Yuba County could use some Stephen Goldsmiths. The city council and county supervisors have either been asleep or confused on how to govern. The latest example is water. With water everywhere in the county, Marysville residents are paying costs like it is in short supply.

Over the last 9 years, California Water Service (CW) increased its rate 133.7%. CW is proposing additional annual increases of 18.4% in 2014, 20.1% in 2015 and 9.4% in 2016.
Not once did any government official question or show concern for the increased demands on public and private coffers for water use.

While running out of money and shedding employees, Yuba County supervisors were oblivious. However, their water bill for county facilities in Marysville was $133,351 (FY 2012/2013) and going to be $167,064 as new rates take effect? If a supervisor paid that water bill for a personal business, he wouldn’t be sleeping at night. It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money.

Marysville City Council’s answer to the increases? Turn off the water to parks and allow hundreds of volunteer-planted trees to die. Former supervisor and city councilman Bill Simmons said it isn’t the first time the city has allowed trees planted by volunteers to perish. Bounce Backward?

In April after a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) meeting here, it was three nonpolitical East Marysville ladies who said “enough already” to the rate increases. Elected officials yawned.

City resident Connie Walczak then filed an official complaint with the CPUC about the “ridiculous water rates.” CW defends those rates as needed to replace aging pipes and to comply with water regulations. They cite other costs like health care, pension commitments, shareholder dividends and personnel benefits to attract competent employees. Walczak responds, “Good work if you can get it, but what about the high rates?” She contends that Yuba City, Linda and Olivehurst all provide the same quality water for about half the cost.

The City of Marysville can find no agreement on file for CW to have a water monopoly. CW advertises that they have been here for 83-years. If that is true, then why do they blame the condition of the water system for raising the rates? Whatever the rates have been, they should have kept the infrastructure in top shape. That is their job.

Utilities are guaranteed an 8%-10% return on investment by the CPUC. In addition, utilities can over spend and then ask for additional monies. Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) found that CW has overspent its budget 25%-116% every year from 2002-2011. “CW has exhibited no desire to control costs or improve efficiency. This is a blatant disregard for the budgeting process.” The problem is that Marysville residents are picking up the tab.

So what is the alternative? The CPUC’s monitoring of utilities is broken. There is no way the public can sustain an ongoing fight against constant increases. The option the citizens of Felton (near Santa Cruz) chose was buying out the water company.
They put an initiative on the ballot to raise the money for the purchase. The measure passed with 75% of the vote. The people forced the private water company to sell via the threat of eminent domain. They contracted with a nearby municipal water district to manage the system.

Voters chose to accept a property tax increase of up to $600 per year for 30 years. However, the average citizen’s water bill decreased by at least 50%. Even with the tax increase, most residents are already saving as much as $400 per year overall.
Unhappy Marysville citizens have been networking through the “Facebook” page “Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates.” With the page getting thousands of hits a day this is a movement nearly void of elected leaders. John Maxwell says, “If you think you are a leader and no one is following, you’re just out for a walk.”

Politicians have created today’s Marysville. A different future would take a citizen uprising. The question is will people act or relocate.

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