City government

City responds to lawsuit against utility rates and payments

By From page A1 | April 05, 2013

The group suing the city over its water and wastewater utility services officially served the lawsuit to the city clerk’s office Wednesday. On Thursday, the city responded.

In a news release authored by the city manager’s office, the city disputes the claims made by the Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services in their entirety.

“The city firmly believes the water and sewer rates are legally valid and the lawsuit is without merit,” the release said. “This is based on legal analysis by statewide experts on rate structure legalities.”

The ratepayer group, represented by Michael Harrington, and private citizen John R. Munn filed an amended complaint last week to a suit the parties filed in late January, alleging that the city fails to pay for the wastewater services it uses at city facilities, while also billing residents unfairly for wastewater.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs assert that the wastewater rates are unfair because the city’s billing system charges for winter “outdoor” water use that doesn’t enter the wastewater system, thus unfairly overcharging residents for the service.

The suit also reaffirms claims that the city fails to pay for the potable water it consumes on city property and that the rates and rate structures the city has and will employ to charge residents for water in Davis are illegal.

The city’s legal staff has 30 days from the date the city was served to file a written response with the Yolo Superior Court and with the plaintiffs. The two sides then will have to sit down to discuss a date for a public hearing of the writ case, according to City Attorney Harriet Steiner.

Meanwhile, the city’s public response to the suit appears to demonstrate a bit of frustration with being sued soon after completing the drawn-out public process to vet the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project and the rates the city needs to pay for it.

“The city has been working on water service delivery options for more than 20 years,” the news release said. “The surface water project and the water rates were determined and approved by the citizen-based Water Advisory Committee.

“The citizens asked for a binding vote on the surface water project. On March 5, Measure I was approved authorizing the city to move forward on the project. In addition, the water rates were approved by the City Council on (March 26) after the legally required Proposition 218 process resulted in less than 11 percent of the ratepayers protesting.

“It is unfortunate that the Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services group are not satisfied with the outcome of the Measure I election. Based on the Measure I vote, the city has a duty to move forward and meet the city’s future water needs. The city will vigilantly defend itself and the ratepayers against this lawsuit. Regretfully, the Davis ratepayers will bear the cost of defending this lawsuit.”

Steiner told The Enterprise Thursday that the suit would not affect implementation of the water rates that the City Council adopted last month.

Those rates are expected to triple the average water bill in Davis by 2018.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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