The city’s 23 advisory commissions could receive a bit of a shake-up in the near future, as the City Council on Tuesday appointed a subcommittee to review the various groups and to offer up reform ideas.
Council members Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee will analyze everything from the way new members are appointed to the possibility of consolidating or eliminating commissions entirely.
Part of the council’s interest in consolidation is a desire to ease the workload of city staff members, who spend considerable time overseeing the monthly meetings.
Mayor Joe Krovoza said Tuesday that, in his opinion, consolidation would be the best way to accomplish cutting down on staff time.
“We don’t want to overuse staff on all of this, but on the other hand, if we’re really going to have alignment and get value out of our commissions I think we have to,” Krovoza said. “The way to reduce staff time, in my mind, is to keep consolidating commissions as much as possible.”
Krovoza said he favors combining the Business and Economic Development Commission with the Finance and Budget Commission, the Safety and Parking Advisory Commission with the Planning Commission and phasing out the Telecommunications Commission.
Meanwhile, Lee, who appears to be interested in improving the commissioner application process, will have the opportunity to look at adding an interview, among other changes.
Council members typically decide whom to appoint based on an application form, on prior knowledge of an applicant or on public comment if the applicant chooses to come before the council to introduce himself before selections are made.
As for the type of applicants the council would like to see, Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said she appreciates the blend of technical expertise and general resident participation.
“I think … there (could) maybe be a box to check in the application that says whether or not you’d be interested in other commissions and they could kind of go into that pool,” she suggested.
The council also voted to have staff come back with a proposal to have all commissions comply with state Form 700 fair political practice laws that require members to disclose any conflicting interests they may have when making decisions or policy recommendations.
Surface water project financing
The council received some good news and some bad Tuesday during a workshop before its regular meeting on how the city will pay for its $113.7 million share of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project.
Voters approved the water project that will supply both Davis and Woodland with a new source of drinking water from the Sacramento River on March 5.
The good news, as explained by Mark Northcross, the city’s financial consultant from NHA advisers, was that Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s credit rating agencies “blessed” Davis last week with their most advantageous classifications, meaning lower interest rates when issuing bonds to pay for the project.
“You’d be in the ‘A’ category,” Northcross said. “They also specifically blessed CBFR (as) OK. It was viewed as either being a modest positive or neutral, so breathe a sigh of relief, (give) high-fives, we’re through that piece.”
CBFR, or the consumption-based fixed rate model, was invented by Water Advisory Committee members Matt Williams and Frank Loge last year and is yet untested in the water utility rate-setting industry.
But Northcross also had some not-so-positive news about the project’s costs.
The city’s consultant believes that receiving any additional grant funding to pay for the water project is “not likely.” The water agency already has received commitments from the state and federal governments for funding to pay for the majority of the intake facility that will pump water from the Sacramento River. But further funding doesn’t appear likely.
“I know there’s a whole story there and we have not given up, but I will just say ‘not likely,’ ” Northcross said.
Krovoza said after the presentation that he still believes federal grant funding could materialize next year and that it could be used to help pay for the project.
“There’s also in Washington, D.C., talk of these infrastructure lending programs that are not going to happen soon, but they might happen in a year or something. … This type of project is exactly what these federal funds could be for,” Krovoza said.
Northcross responded that the city could issue smaller bonds so as not to lock it into one large chunk of debt service in order to capture any advantageous grant funding or interest rates that might surface down the road.
Meanwhile, Northcross went on, the state revolving funds that the council and the water agency had been hoping to reel in remain attainable, but likely would not mean much in softening rates for ratepayers over the life of the 20-year, low-interest loans.
However, the long-term costs of the project would still be reduced because of the 20-year amortization period, rather than a more standard 30-year period.
Northcross said that he expects between 10 to 40 percent of the project to be paid for through these types of state revolving funds loans and that the rest would be issued through market-rate bonds.
Northcross will return to the council in August with a master bond issuance authorization plan and then again in September to ask for approval of the actual issuance of the bonds once a winning contracting firm has been selected and a concrete price tag for the project is known.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash