Davis resident Norma Landau, center, asks a question during a community water meeting Monday at Patwin Elementary School. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Davis resident Norma Landau, center, asks a question during a community water meeting Monday at Patwin Elementary School. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

City government

Residents pepper city staff with water questions

By From page A1 | February 05, 2013

The water questions came flying Monday inside the Patwin Elementary School gymnasium where the city held the first of five community meetings for residents to learn about the Woodland-Davis surface water project and the corresponding rates.

Dianna Jensen, Davis’ principal civil engineer, and Herb Niederberger, general manager of utilities, development and operations, presented the project and the rates on poster boards they had set up on easels throughout the room, then opened the floor up for questions.

The relatively full house of the 50 or so residents in attendance took full advantage.

Some rattled off technical questions about the project itself, about the sizing of the pipeline that will convey the treated water to Davis, about why the water agency chose to bid the project through a design-build-operate method and about whether the quality of the water from the Sacramento River is, in fact, better than that from ground wells.

Others picked on the rates, asking how meter sizes of homes affected their water bills, or why the consumption-based fixed rate model incorporates only the summer months when tracking historical use, or how the city will generate revenue for the water utility if the rate spike dramatically increases conservation.

But for each inquiry, city staffers had a response. After the meeting, Jensen agreed that attendees had impressive depth of knowledge on the issue.

“For me, there was some confusion with some of the details about the proposed project with Woodland,” Davis resident Phyllis Graham said after the meeting. “(But) most of my questions were answered.”

At one point, the question was raised as to why the No on Measure I group wasn’t in attendance to propose the alternative to the city’s plan for the Woodland-Davis water project, but Niederberger explained that he and Jensen were only there to address the project as it was recommended by the Water Advisory Committee and approved by the City Council.

“We’re not talking about Measure I,” he said.

Ballots for Measure I, an all-mail election that will ask residents whether they approve of the City Council moving forward with the joint water project with Woodland, were mailed Monday.

Completed ballots are due back to the Yolo County Elections Office by March 5. The measure requires a majority vote for passage.

The Woodland-Davis project, estimated to cost $113 million for the city of Davis, will pump water from the Sacramento River to a treatment facility in Woodland before it is piped to customers in Woodland and Davis. The new source of drinking water largely will replace each city’s dependence on deteriorating ground well water supplies.

Barreling alongside the Measure I all-mail election is the Proposition 218 process the city must go through in order to raise water utility rates in Davis.

Prop. 218 requires cities to mail notices to all property owners in Davis at least 45 days in advance of the public hearing that the City Council must host to adopt the rate increases. If more than half of the roughly 16,500 property owners in the city protest the proposed increase, the rates are blocked.

The public hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. Protests must be written and submitted to the city clerk’s office by the end of the public hearing time.

Prop. 218 notices also include information on the proposed five-year rate schedule, which in this case shows that water bills will triple over the next five years if Measure I passes and the city must begin paying off the water project.

After opening up their own Prop. 218 notice Monday, Davis residents Dan and Linda Parfitt decided to attend the city’s meeting to learn more about the project.

“I just have concerns about the implications, the cost and the process of the water project,” Dan Parfitt said after the meeting.

The city recently posted a water rate calculator on its website for residents to figure out how much they will be paying for water over the next five years if rates increase.

To access the calculator, visit http://water.cityofdavis.org/rates/water-rates-calculator.

The city will host four additional meetings this month, all at 7 p.m.:

* Tuesday, at Montgomery Elementary School, 1441 Danbury St.;

* Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Davis Senior Center, 646 A St.;

* Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the South Davis Fire Station, 425 Mace Blvd.; and

* Thursday, Feb. 21, at Birch Lane Elementary, 1600 Birch Lane.

More information is available at http://public-works.cityofdavis.org/water.

— 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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