Friday, December 26, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

City wins final decision on water rate lawsuit

By
From page A1 | March 18, 2014 |

Yolo County Superior Court Judge Dan Maguire issued his second — and final — opinion on parts of a nearly yearlong lawsuit against the city of Davis Monday morning, affirming the city’s current and future water rates, leaving other less-central aspects of the lawsuit for later in the year.

The decision, a 20-page opinion that delves into the byzantine world of water rate structures and their legality, affirms the city’s most recent water rate billing structure and one due to take effect next year. This decision follows a draft decision in Davis’ favor in January.

The lawsuit, filed March 22, 2013, is totally separate from the water rate initiative that qualified for the June 3 ballot. The lawsuit asks the court to consider the legality of the water rates and the initiative will poll the minds of the voters to see if they think the rates are fair.

Maguire’s written opinion methodically finds fault with the opponents’ arguments, which essentially asked the Yolo County Superior Court to rule against the opinion of the appellate California 4th District Court.

Any astute Superior Court judge would be out of bounds to agree. It would be like asking the California Supreme Court to rule against legal abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court has authority over the matter, ruling the opposite. The legal term is called “stare decisis,” and forms part of the foundation of the American legal system.

Such a legal strategy usually fails at the lower court level with certainty, but has been used by legal opponents to the status quo throughout American history to lay groundwork for a higher court fight that would have the authority to find favor with them.

When Michael Harrington, the opponents’ attorney, was asked if the group would appeal, he said when the remnants of the case were decided after an October trial, the group would decide on the matter.

“When we started this case, we assumed that one side or the other was going to appeal the trial court outcome, but (we) plaintiffs will make that final decision at a later time,” he wrote in an email.

While Maguire’s legal conclusions were largely foregone, his opinion contained educational explanations for the reasoning for the way water rates are put together and the way the law allows cities and other agencies to figure out how to bill their customers.

Paying for city water under the current rate structure, Maguire wrote on page 12, is much like renting a moving truck:

“For instance, consider two people who rent a moving truck for one day for $50, plus 30 cents per mile. The first person drives 250 miles on that day, and thus pays a total of $125, which equates to 50 cents per mile. The second person drives 10 miles, and thus pays a total of $53, which equates to $5.30 per mile.”

Maguire wrote that even though the second driver pays 10 times more per mile, the cost is fair to both drivers because the cost to supply the rental truck goes beyond how many miles it’s driven. There are insurance, vehicle maintenance, registration and acquisition costs and the cost to have the trucks ready to go when the customer needs them.

The idea that the moving company needs a fixed charge — that $50 — plus the charge per mile is similar to the way the current Bartle Wells water rate is put together. Water customers are charged a fixed rate depending on the size of their water connection, plus a charge that varies by the month based on their water usage.

The fixed rate pays for fixed costs at the water utility, like employee salaries, regular maintenance, etc., while the month-to-month costs borne by ratepayers pay for month-to-month costs like the number of chemicals or electricity used to purify and distribute the amount of water used.

Both the Bartle Wells and the future consumption-based water rates have fixed charges and variable charges. The consumption-based rate also has a supply charge, but part of its rate is based on peak water usage months, so consumers have the incentive to conserve water during those months to charge their water rates for the coming year in a way the Bartle Wells structure cannot offer.

Bartle Wells recovers 40 percent of the system’s costs through fixed charges, while consumption-based rates collect only 13 percent through fixed charges.

Maguire said the law’s interpretation of Proposition 218 looked favorably on both rate structures because a controlling appellate court opinion said rates do not have to be fair on the individual level, but can be proportionately assigned to customer groups based on their potential to impose costs on the water system.

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

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Transit survey: 47 percent ride bikes to UCD campus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Exchange students bring the world to Davis

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Pastor has many plans for CA House

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Playing Santa

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Goats help recycle Christmas trees

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Special holiday gifts

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A3

    Woodland-Davis commute bus service expands

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Learn fruit tree tips at free class

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis Bike Club hears about British cycling tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Pick up a Davis map at Chamber office

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Explorit: Get a rise out of science

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

    NAMI meeting offers family support

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Yoga, chanting intro offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Blamed for her sister’s rage

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    How much for the calling birds?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Steve Sack cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Many ensured a successful parade

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Thanks for putting food on the table

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Two more for the road for 9-1 Aggie men

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Patterson is college football’s top coach

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Clippers get a win over Golden State

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    NBA roundup: Heat beat Cavs in LeBron’s return to Miami

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘Unbroken': A bit underwhelming

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    Folk musicians will jam on Jan. 2

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    .

    Business

    Passat: Roomy, affordable sedan with German engineering

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    James J. Dunning Jr.

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Floyd W. Fenocchio

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, December 26, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7

     
    Comics: Thursday, December 26, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: A9