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Rohnert Park trying to make a case for sewer rate increase

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rohnert Park officials are ramping up a campaign to convince residents that sewer rates must be raised to avert financial disaster.

They’re taking that message to residents Tuesday in a meeting called to discuss the rates, which voters in 2008 rolled back to 2006 levels.

Councilwoman Pam Stafford said the issue ranks second on the list of city priorities, after the overall budget, which faces a deficit now estimated to be $1.4 million at year’s end.

Leaders of Measure L, the successful 2008 voter initiative to lower the rates have sworn to oppose any attempt to raise them again, including by taking the fight to court. They argued in 2008 that the city was subsidizing future development at current ratepayers’ expense.

John Hudson, a Measure L advocate, said the city needs to hold an election if rates are to be increased because the rates were originally lowered at the ballot box.

“If they want to subvert the democratic process by not submitting it to the voters, then we’ll sue them,” Hudson said.

He said he believes the city is misstating the amount of money it is making from utility revenues and he questions whether the number given for daily loses is accurate.

Rohnert Park officials said the system’s expenses are outrunning its revenues by $10,000 a day. That will exhaust the sewer reserve fund by next year and the city will have to tap into its already stretched general fund.

Currently, according to the city, average household sewer rates are $45 a month, the second lowest in Sonoma County.

The City Council this year formed a task force that included community members to plan a campaign to convince residents of the situation’s urgency and the need for a rate hike.

Stafford said the city needs to reverse its failure in 2007 to convince voters that rolling back rates would backfire, an effort that runs smack into a universal desire to save money.

“Who doesn’t want to lower every bill they have,” she said. “We just have to do a better job of explaining how it really is truly working.”

Hudson said the task force is a sham because no one who supported Measure L is on it.

The Tuesday meeting is at 5 p.m. and will include an opportunity for public comment.





20 Responses to “Rohnert Park trying to make a case for sewer rate increase”

  1. paying attention says:

    “Currently, according to the city, average household sewer rates are $45 a month, the second lowest in Sonoma County.”

    Here we go again – which ‘facts’ do we buy? The propaganda in my RP sewer bill says that RP’s average is $38 and the lowest.

    I looked at my bill and it is twice as much – and we are very conservative.

    Check with your friends/families in other Sonoma County cities. I question these figures.

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  2. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    Another concern I have is the loss of water pressure as more development is done, such as adding in the new homes slated on the backside of SSU and Sonoma Mountain.

    While the city denies the loss in pressure, it isn’t too hard to see: sprinklers for my yard that used to cross over each other three or four feet now come up short and I get dead spots in the lawn.

    And of course, as more homes are brought online, then the city puts more pressure on us to conserve our dwindling resource. So, since it’s dwindling, why the push for more and more homes, and big developments like Sonoma Mountain, adding a school with 500 students, etc. And none of us have forgotten that upcoming casino, right?

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  3. Fiscal Conservative says:

    My hat is off to John Hudson.

    He has had a spur under the saddle with RP on their sewer rates for a long time and he is giving them what for.

    We need more people who are just plain fed up, to go to the meetings and let these local polititians hear just how insane their proposals are and how fed up we are as taxpayers.

    Give them hell John.

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  4. RP MOM says:

    So why did they approve MORE housing in town if we have sewer and water issues???? Smells fishy to me

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  5. Paying Attention says:

    The people of RP are not that dense. I think we can figure out that the sewer rates are raising in order to support the 4,000+ new homes that will be built soon.

    People are waking up to your scams.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  6. Phil Maher says:

    Here’s an eye opening example-one that we all experienced-whether we knew it at the time or not. When we bought our first house some years ago, we had no baseline history on how much water/sewer we were using. As a result, even though our actual water use was only 6000 gallons over a 2 month billing cycle, because of the number of people in our household (3), we were charged for 15,000 of sewer use. We went on like this until a full year had gone by, in spite of my pleas and demands that such a glaring discrepancy be corrected. So, I have no sympathy for any municipalities crying about fair remuneration for sewer services.

    Rohnert Park officials have spent untold money on trying to not only fight Measure L before it came to a vote, but even more money trying to undo the will of the voters, and now, will spend even more again trying to convince the naive/gullible/sympathetic that the city will collapse without higher sewer rates. They feel robbed, and by hook or crook, they fully intend to get “their” money back. If a city relies on generating the necessary revenue for its survival from piping human waste, maybe it has no business existing in the first place, and those in charge should be the ones the people should be flushing away instead.

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  7. John Hudson says:

    My one point of agreement with the City of RP is that I think it is legitimate to estimate sewer usage from winter averaging the way the city does it. Sewer meters are not installed because of the cost of the meters and the intrinsic differences in the nature of the flow through the sewer lines. The cost would outweigh the benefits and the maintenance of sewer meters would probably be so expensive and problematic that any additional benefits. Think about your own experience. How often does your water line clog? How often does your sewer line clog? Why?

    However, there can be no doubt that existing residents are being forced to subsidize infrastructure for developers. Sections 13.42.030 and 13.42.035 provide that ordinary sewer use rates include the cost of expanding the sewer system. The city council doesn’t want to change this. Measure L was intended to force an end to this practice and, I believe, largely succeeded.

    Consider that developers pay no impact fee until a building permit is issued, and sewer and water infrastructure have to be in place before a building permit can be issued. Even if the sewer connection fee is adequate, somebody has to finance the infrastructure between the start of construction of the infrastructure and the issuance of he building permit. That “somebody” is the existing residents of the City of Rohnert Park.

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  8. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Vicky

    While a reference to filling up an RV’s water tank is a good example of water not going down the ‘sewage drain’ and yet residents are paying a fee for just that, a better example is now many gallons of water do residents use to water their lawns and tomato plants? All that water that never sees the treatment plant is assessed a sewer fee on your bill.

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  9. Vikki says:

    Why doesn’t the city put meters on the sewer usage? We are charged for how much water we use and how much “The City” say goes into the sewer from our usage. We all know, not all that water THEY say we use goes into the sewer. What about people who have RV’s and fill their water tank from home (maybe 60 gallons) and go to a RV Park, they are charged for the sewer usage their also.Those gallons which were filled at home DID NOT go down the Rohnert Park sewer did they? But they were still charged for it.Rohnert Park IS NOT the Friendly City we moved to more than 30 years ago. People on a fixed income can not survive all the bailouts cities want when they can not control spending and want the citizen to bail them out over and over.

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  10. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    Thank you John Hudson. Let’s make one sentence stand out on it’s own in this thread:

    “… the City of Rohnert Park had $2,017,432 in “excess revenues” from public utilities in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.”

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  11. Pearl Alquileres says:

    When your kid wastes their allowance and asks for more, giving them more only teaches them that they are free to waste money.
    GOVERNMENT is no different!
    Except GOVERNMENT can, will and DOES punish the voters by FIRST cutting the things they know ill hurt the most. Public Safety, Education, Elder Care, Pot Holes etc…
    Instead of cutting the excesses that will affect NO ONE but the bureaucrats who will lose their useless jobs or suffer the fate of any private employee by losing their GOVERNMENT paid luxuries.
    But the voters continue to elect the people promising the most goodies… DON’T YOU??!!

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  12. Guard Dog says:

    Lay off that $300,000+ a year employee that & stop giving FREE money to codding, That should do the trick!.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  13. 0 Representation says:

    @ Ira Freed

    In good contiousness can you REALLY expect people to believe what you are saying, when there IS proof that the city itself posted in the Community Voice that there IS excess revenues? Sorry to say… I really don’t care WHO is on your Sewer Group. It stinks to high heaven. And frankly the people aren’t going to drink the groups Kool-aid.

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  14. John Hudson says:

    The PD censored my last post in this thread following Ira’s. So much for free speech.

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  15. John Hudson says:

    Ira is one of the opponents of Measure L that make up the so called “stakeholder’s group”. The real stakeholders are the people of Rohnert Park. The majority of them voted YES on Measure L. Nonetheless, only one Measure L supporter was invited to be on this committee, Larry Resnick. Larry resigned from the committee when he realized that he was the only person on the committee who supported Measure L.

    This committee is a fraud and a sham. The city had no intention of forming a body that would objectively investigate its sewer finances. They only wanted the committee as fig leaf to cover up their attempt to cancel an election result that they don’t like. Apparently most people see this effort for what it really is. The last thing the city wants is to have the voters endorse Measure L a second time by defeating its effort to repeal it. Therefore, I expect the city council to vote to raise sewer rates without getting voter approval in violation of state law as discussed by the California Supreme Court in Bighorn Desert View Water Agency v Verjil (2006) 39 Cal 4th 205, 219-220.

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  16. Ira Freed says:

    Rohnert Park, like many other cities, is not collecting enough fees or taxes to cover its expenses, even after cutting expenditures, personnel, and services. The proposed rate hike in the sewer rates will return the sewer revenue to approximately the level of rates before the rollback in 2008 and will cover the expenses of operating and maintaining the sewer system. I am one of the 16 members of the Sewer Fund Stakeholders Group. Each of us was asked by the city managers to serve on this task force to learn about the sewer system and finances and to help explain the situation to our fellow residents. After many meetings, including one where Measure L supporter Larry Resnick came to present his views on sewer rates, I am convinced that the city is doing its best to reduce its deficit and to maintain services, including the sewer system. Each of the residents and property owners in Rohnert Park has to think about what is important and what is worthwhile to support in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment here and a fiscally sound city government.

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  17. Ray M. says:

    Thanks @John for the info about the financial statement. The City buried it on page 9 of the Community Voice so that no one would see it, yet say they (Rohnert Park) disclosed the information with the local media.

    Sleazy at best, criminal at worst.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  18. Ray M. says:

    Hey Rohnert Park! Stop giving tax money and services to Codding for free. Make them pay for what they want to build.

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  19. Try cutting the City employee’s salaries more than 5%/10%….quit spending on frivolous projects and get stay out of the taxpayers pockets….like Cotati’s Council…they’re nothing more than welfare recipients….taking all the free money they can and letting the people they work for pay for it!

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  20. John Hudson says:

    Unfortunately, Jeremy did not tell us which city had THE lowest sewer rates. Why can’t RP have THE lowest rates? The city sent a piece of propaganda in the utility bills this month that suggests that RP has the lowest rates by not mentioning the city with lower rates. The City of RP apparently doesn’t want us to know that another city has lower rates then the Measure L rates.

    It is also unfortunate that the article does not mention the financial statement that the City of Rohnert Park published on page 9 of the November 12, 2010 edition of The Community Voice representing that the City of Rohnert Park had $2,017,432 in “excess revenues” from public utilities in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.(I emailed Jeremy a copy of that statement right after I got off the phone with him.)If the City of RP is losing $10,000 a day on sewer as it claims, it is overcharging enough for water and garbage to cover that loss and make a $2 million profit as well.

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