Friday, January 30, 2015

Council stresses indecision on public power

From page A1 | February 27, 2014 |

The Davis City Council voted Wednesday night essentially to redo a resolution it passed in December, placing more emphasis on getting in touch with the community on the investigation of a publicly owned electric utility.

All five council members voted to rewrite the resolution, but they were divided on why they supported such a move.

City Councilman Brett Lee opened the issue with some observations.

“The city manager has quit,” he said. “…We’re trying to find an interim and permanent city manager. Some of you are running for office in June.”

Besides the busyness of council members who have day jobs, families and are running for office, Lee also pointed out that the council is asking voters to pass a sales tax increase at the polls on June 3, and community education will be required.

“I want to know who has the time, energy and bandwidth to lead a POU (publicly owned utility) effort,” he said.

Councilman Lucas Frerichs, the other council member not running for an office, added that there is still work on the surface water project to be done and a potential revenue measure for November, too.

“There’s no question there’s a strong potential for a POU in this community,” Frerichs said, but cautioned that the City Council needed “to hit the pause button, or more correctly, slow it down.”

Still, no one on the council called for pulling back the $600,000 authorized for future expenditures related to studying a publicly owned utility.

Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson focused her questions on city staff, making sure public outreach was not the last thing on the city’s to-do list, as a chart in a staff report made it seem.

“Matt (Williams) brought up a good point about public outreach, and it’s not on this timeline,” she said. “It should be step zero.”

City staff assured the council that public outreach — meetings with community groups and other actions taken by a yet-to-be-hired public outreach firm — would be going on in conjunction with the investigation over the coming year.

Mayor Joe Krovoza said he and the council did not do enough to tell the public that no decision has been made on the publicly owned utility process.

“I think the first piece of public outreach should be that we haven’t made up our mind,” he said.

Yet Krovoza still felt the city should move forward with the inquiry, saying the $600,000 the council borrowed from a city wastewater fund would, at worst case, have to be paid back at $60,000 per year.

Yard waste

The City Council voted to move ahead with a Davis Waste Removal contract that would require residents to place their yard waste in containers — most of the time.

The council unanimously approved an option Wednesday night to allow weekly loose-pile pickups during November and December, when leaf drop is at its greatest, and monthly pickups during the rest of the year. The carts would be collected weekly, year-round.

While bicycle safety was a major topic among council members the last time the issue had surfaced, this time the concern centered on the city’s ability to get a state-approved storm water permit that regulates water quality. Without it, the city may be subject to fines.

City Councilman Dan Wolk said that of all the reasons to have yard waste in containers — bicycle safety, environmental health or avoiding fines from the state for storm water — storm water resonates the most with people he talks to.

Krovoza felt diverting organic waste would be a big plus.

“I actually don’t think the bike thing is the major reason to do this either, notwithstanding my comments last meeting about hitting piles,” he said. “Diversion is a great reason to do this without a significant increase in cost to the consumer.”

The council agreed it needs to educate the public through various channels over the coming months, before the containers are put into use.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews




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