Thursday, September 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

City, plaintiffs settle suit over water rates

HarringtonW

Michael Harrington, right, and Rodney Robinson, left, listen to an announcement Tuesday evening at the Davis City Council meeting of a settlement between water rates opponents, represented by Harrington, and the city of Davis. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | August 27, 2014 |

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city’s water and sewer rates reached a $195,000 settlement with the city Tuesday night. The announcement came after a unanimous, closed-session vote to approve the deal, Mayor Dan Wolk said.

Signing the settlement were Wolk for the city and Michael Harrington, a former City Council member and the lead attorney in the case. Harrington represented former Davis school board member John Munn and the group Yolo Ratepayers Association for Affordable Public Utilities.

According to a joint statement, along with the money paid to Harrington and the plaintiffs for legal expenses, the city agreed to:

* Going forward and looking back to August 2010, pay all water and sewer charges for its facilities at standard rates, with a few exceptions for utility enterprises and fair market leases;

* Continue providing water education and conservation programs; and

* Allocate $5,000 of non-enterprise funds in addition to the amount currently budgeted to be used for programs to assist low-income customers with water rates.

The plaintiffs not only agreed to drop their lawsuit, they also agreed they will not oppose the news water rates described in Prop. 218 notices sent this summer to residents. Those rates will be the subject of a City Council hearing on Sept. 16.

Plus, the plaintiffs agreed not to file any lawsuits over water rates, sewer rates or the spring 2013 Measure I vote to approve the Woodland-Davis surface water project, and not bring forth a referendum, initiative or any other “public process” about any of those things.

The settlement brings a long and fraught legal contest to a close.

Members of Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services sued the city in 2013, claiming Davis’ consumption-based water rates — which were overturned by Measure P in June — were illegal and disproportionate. They also alleged that the old Bartle Wells rates in use in 2013-14 were similarly illegal.

Yolo Superior Court Judge Dan Maguire ruled in the city’s favor in January on major aspects of the case, but significant sections of the Yolo Ratepayers’ lawsuit remained to be settled.

These were sections pertaining to the city using water and sewer services without paying for them and other more minor claims than those against the water rates.

While those claims were leftovers from the main part of the suit, the continuing legal action could have jeopardized the city’s ability to obtain bond funding for the surface water project at the best possible rates. Better rates would mean less onerous monthly bills for city ratepayers.

In the joint statement, Munn said he continues to be concerned about water costs, but approves of the settlement.

“I am glad we can put this matter behind us and I look forward to working with the city in the future,” he said.

Wolk said the settlement means the community can move beyond “the disputes of the past and focus our united efforts on ensuring the long-term success of our water project.”

— Reach Dave Ryan at dryan@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

 

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