City government

Council extends water deadlines, eyes ballot measure options

By From page A1 | June 14, 2012

The Davis City Council agree Tuesday to wait a little longer for recommendations from its Water Advisory Committee.

The committee had asked for deadline extensions last month for its advice on what surface water project the city should pursue and what rate structure will be needed to pay for it.

The committee now has until Aug. 21 to lock down the details of the surface water project and until Sept. 18 to finalize a rate structure.

But the council held off on making a decision about what type of water measure to place on the November ballot until its June 26 meeting so that, in part, the committee could weigh in on the matter.

The next Water Advisory Committee meeting is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

The council is considering two types of measures for the ballot:

* One that would bind the city to a specific water project, along with a corresponding rate structure to implement it. The rates would be subject to the Prop. 218 process; or

* One that would be an advisory measure, asking residents whether they support the surface water project and a rate structure, but not tying the city to the outcome.

But because the Yolo County Elections Office requires final ballot language by Aug. 10, the question remains, without all the information it needs from the Water Advisory Committee, how clear can the city be about exactly what ratepayers will be voting on?

City Manager Steve Pinkerton says the city’s ability to be specific on the details is limited by granting the extension.

“By giving the Water Advisory Committee eight more weeks, you’re now putting yourself in a position where a November ballot measure has to be a bit more generic,” Pinkerton said.

Bill Kopper, a committee member and former mayor, spoke to that point during public comment Tuesday, saying the council shouldn’t rush any sort of measure onto the fall ballot.

“In order to get a real yes or no it’s going to be best to wait until you have that project defined,” he said.

Councilwoman Sue Greenwald said that before the City Council can finalize any type of ballot language, it must know every detail about the project, in addition to its cost and the rates that will pay for it.

“I think it would be a very big mistake to put a binding measure on the ballot to do a project when we don’t have the wording exact of that project, and its cost, in the measure,” Greenwald said. “Who would vote to bind themselves but not know what it is they’re binding themselves to?”

Councilman Stephen Souza also worried that residents might have trouble grasping what they are voting on, especially because the project, regardless of its form, will be so complex.

“We’d better become clear as a community as to what we want,” Souza warned. “If a (water) committee that’s composed of dedicated people have spent 12 meetings — three to four hours (apiece) — and they need more time to understand, how in the world do we think our community of citizens that have spent hardly any time (learning about the project) are going to get it and understand it well enough to vote on it intelligently?”

If the City Council elects not to put a measure on the November ballot, it could hold a special mail-only election in early 2013, as no regular election is set for the coming year. Pinkerton said Tuesday that such an election could cost the city $80,000 to $100,000.

He also said that if the council doesn’t make a decision by December, the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project, as currently proposed, would be off the table. Then, if the city eventually wanted to move forward with the project, the costs likely will have risen and the timing of the project will have changed, he said.

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