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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Bob Dunning: At City Hall, numbers don’t lie

BobDunning2W

By
From page A2 | January 25, 2013 |

THE NEW MATH … my friend K.K. is confused about what might happen to our water rates if the proposed surface water project is rejected by the voters come March 5 … writes K.K.: “In your article the other day you cited that the city said rates would only go up by 50 percent without the project.” … indeed, that’s what I said and I have the facts to back up where in the city hierarchy those figures came from … adds K.K.: “Now today I’m learning that the city is now saying rates are going up 100 percent without the project. Which is it?” …

OK, here’s what we know … two weeks ago city staff presented to the City Council a proposed Prop. 218 notice that said “Fees Without the Water Project — If the surface water project is not approved by the voters at the March 5 election, the city will not proceed with the project, but water service fees will still need to be increased by about 50 percent; increasing the average bill from about $34 to $50/month by 2018.” … you do the math and that comes out to a relatively small yearly increase of $3.20 a month from now until 2018, which just might convince a number of citizens to vote “no” and stick with what we have until the economy turns around …

Perhaps realizing the effect such a small increase might have on the voting public, the city suddenly came out with a new set of numbers that dramatically increases the cost if the surface water project is not approved … now the city says “If the surface water project is not approved by the voters at the March 5 election, the city will not proceed with the project, but water service fees will still need to be increased by about 97 percent; increasing the average bill from about $34 to $67/month by 2018.” …

There is, of course, an explanation for the new calculation … “The water utility is currently running at a deficit due to the deferral of rate increases scheduled for 2011. Also, without an alternative surface water supply, the city must still invest in additional groundwater production facilities and infrastructure as well as demand management tools to meet consumer demands.

“The rate increases cover the cost of operations and maintenance, repaying of the line of credit that was obtained to continue operations without rate increases over the past 18 months, meter replacement fees, debt payment on two of our existing wells and the new 4 million-gallon tank, automated meter reading and other capital improvement projects.” … I think that about covers it … everything except the $75,000 to decorate the new water tank, which at this point, is quite literally a drop in the bucket …

Asks K.K., with a raised eyebrow: “Why the change in forecast from the city after such a short length of time? How did they get it so wrong in the first place?” … good questions, indeed … “I don’t know whom to believe anymore.” … join the club, my friend …

WATERED-DOWN LOGIC … it has been suggested to me that the sky-high rates necessitated by the proposed surface water project will be substantially mitigated by the assumption that Davisites won’t have to buy bottled water or use their water softeners anymore … that may be true for a handful of people, but old habits are hard to break … I suspect most people will remain tethered to their water softeners and virtually no one will give up drinking bottled water, whether they buy it in those massive glass jars delivered right to their doorstep or in the handy 30-pack of plastic bottles at Costco … of course, for those hardy souls who have neither water softeners nor bottled water, there will be no “savings” at all …

For that matter, anyone who bothers to scoop up a bucketful of Sacramento River water in the nearby town of Grimes (hey, I didn’t name it) will go screaming to the bottled water aisle of their favorite supermarket and buy everything in sight … I realize that river water will be purified six times to Sunday before it starts spurting from our taps, but some images are hard for the mind to shake … the murky, muddy Sacramento is one such image …

— Reach Bob Dunning at bdunning@davisenterprise.net

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