The city of Chico is currently perpetrating a sewer scam on residents all over town. They’re telling people septic tanks are causing a nitrate problem in our groundwater, but that was proven false about 20 years ago. Ask Jane Dolan – back in the 90’s, when the city tried to force all kinds of people onto sewer, she and others asserted correctly that the nitrates in our drinking water were coming from cattle ranching above town and fertilizer use along Chico Creek. The project was dropped.
But, I sat in on a meeting years back with Colleen Jarvis, Dan Nguyen-tan, and current city councilor Scott Gruendl, during which they expressed the need not only to raise the monthly fee for sewer, but the need to get more people on sewer in order to pay for the expansion of the sewer plant out by the river.
There is so much to this story, I hate to tell it. I just heard more at another meeting Downtown recently. See, if you’re on sewer, your poop goes to this plant out in the orchards west of town, you can smell it for miles when you drive out there toward Scotty’s or head for Willows. There it is “treated” – read up on that yourself – basically, the sewer treatment plant has nothing on septic tanks, it IS just a big septic tank.
The difference being, after your poop goes through your septic tank, it is leached into your yard. When it goes to the sewer plant, it is sent to the Sacramento River. The pipe leads to leach lines buried under the river bed.
One problem here being, the leach lines lay just about exactly where M&T Ranch pumps water for their huge agricultural and animal preserve operation. Also, the river naturally “meanders,” and this has left Chico’s sewer leach lines “high and dry” several times, resulting in millions of our city dollars being spent on re-doing the lines. This seems to happen about every 10 years. The manager from M&T recently came to a meeting Downtown, where he described a plan to stabilize the river banks by building these enormous rock “jetties,” but he didn’t say who was going to PAY FOR IT. He did say the Sacramento River Conservancy is dead against this project and they’ll fight in court – more $$$$$$$!
I’ll tell you another problem I made them admit at the meeting – the sewer plant has “accidents” – funny word, huh? Cause “accident” means, during a big rainstorm, raw sewage can be and often is discharged into the river. Ask any River Rat, they’ll tell you their turd cloud story. It seems to stick together, as it floats in the river, like a brown cloud. What is that? you ask yourself – yes, I’ve seen human turds floating in the river, and too many to have been just some old fisherman crapping off the side of his boat.
But the city of Chico has managed to perpetrate the sewer scam on the unwitting – in fact, a friend of mine over in Chapmantown was “allowed”, along with many neighbors, to hook up free of charge! No hook up fees, that’s how desperate they are to get people on the system. Cause once your house is hooked up, it’s a guaranteed fee every month, a fee they can raise at will. The meeting I sat in on with Gruendl, Nguyen-tan and Jarvis was about just that – raising sewer fees to cover the cost of expanding the sewer system so the state would allow us to build more housing. Jarvis argued they should raise the fee immediately, some $15 a month – “let’s be honest with people,” she said – but Nguyen-tan and Gruendl, cagey bastards – they didn’t want to piss people off, they wanted to raise it incrementally. They won.
I’ll tell you what Jarvis wasn’t being honest about, was the reason. She would have let people go on thinking this move to sewer was for public health when it was really about revenues for the city. She was a pretty cagey old broad herself. And if you disagree, you didn’t know her, so shut the hell up.
And now they’re winning the silent battle to get more people on sewer, even when there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their septic tanks. A well-maintained septic tank should cost you less than $100 a year, while sewer will cost you some $40 a month. And you’re not paying for service, you’re paying salaries Downtown.
Yes, they need the money badly Downtown. They aren’t even paying for the sewer upgrade, they’re paying their own salaries. This is another problem Downtown – they were paying many salaries and benefits and pension premiums out of the recently disbanded RDA. The RDA had a credit card, and they spent wildly on whatever they wanted – one year they gave developer Tom DiGiovanni $7 million in RDA money, that’s how wild. The new successor agency is limited to about a million and a half a year.
Would you believe, they were even paying the city council salaries out of the RDA?
So, now, $106,000 a year engineer Bob Greenlaw says they don’t have any money to repair the streets. That’s the same song I’ve been hearing Downtown for years. At one meeting, Jennifer Hennessy said, point blank, the gas tax receipts, which we were told were legally supposed to be spent on road maintenance, are spent instead on salaries Downtown.
This city council and $taff are handing us nothing but bullshit. If you people reelect Gruendl and Goloff in 2014, you’re saying, “Yes Mother, may I have another!”
Here’s the story from the Enterprise Record:
But, those roads — like many others throughout Chico — were in disrepair long before the project, said senior civil engineer Bob Greenlaw.
Construction does exacerbate conditions, but funding restrictions limit the cash-strapped city from making better improvements, he said.
“It’s not that we are not paying attention to this, but right now the funds are there for the most part to patch things up and keep them safe,” he said. “Those are our priorities — is the road safe, is it stable? Does it look good? No. Does it ride good? Ehh, maybe not the best.”
The nitrate project is funded by a state revolving fund loan that limits fund uses, Greenlaw said. Repairing or overlaying the entire roadway after sewer lines are laid is not an eligible use.
That’s little consolation for some residents.
“I don’t see how it makes sense to leave us with streets in such horrible condition,” said Jane Evraets, a 33-year-resident of Pillsbury Road. “Maybe it’s not a good idea to tear up something if you can’t put it back together to where it’s decent.”Now that contractors are mostly finished, main trunk and laterals are filled with fresh asphalt but the surrounding road is pocked with cracks and holes.
“Our roads have been destroyed,” said Sylvia Brock, who has lived in the neighborhood for 28 years. “They weren’t perfect but they were a heck of a lot better than they are now.”
She attended every public meeting about the project and said the city has not upheld its promises.
“They were supposed to restore the roads to pre-existing conditions,” she said.
Brock and Evraets would like to think attention to the problem will change it, but they have their doubts.
“We’ve been given no hope. No one has said, ‘In X amount of time,’ or ‘We are working on it,'” Evraets said. “It’s, ‘We hear you, but there is no money.'”
Residents near Enloe Medical Center addressed the City Council in January with similar complaints and were given a similar answer.
Near Enloe, the $500,000 to $1 million cost to resurface and make other improvements to a 12-block area was to be funded by the Redevelopment Agency. When that funding source dissolved, the project came to a halt.
It and other projects throughout the city, such as streets that needed resurfacing before the nitrate project, remain on a to-do list.
“The public always saw some roads being paved before through different sources of funds but those are now really limited,” Greenlaw said. “Now, it’s down to either the grant funds … or gas tax, and that’s not been available.
Some roads might have been slated for resurfacing back when funding was available but it was postponed because of the nitrate project. The city didn’t want to invest in resurfacing only to tear up the roads again. “The city definitely has a desire to freshen up the roadway surfaces and not just in the nitrate areas but in all roadways within its jurisdiction,” Greenlaw said, noting the city has 300 miles of streets, 187 of which are residential.
He expects staff soon will present the council with road infrastructure conditions, funding needs and a ranking of necessary projects. The city can then develop a multi-year plan for improvements.
“These are not the conditions we would like to keep the roads in,” Greenlaw said. “We will get out there and get back to it, but it’s going to take a little while.”