March 30, 2018
A special meeting was held Tuesday night at 6 pm just prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the Dixon City council to hear from water rate consultants just what it will take to create a financially stable and viable water system for half of the city. Dixon has two water providers, California Water and the city run system formerly operated by Solano Irrigation District (SID).
The meeting was disjointed due to the length of the presentation by Bob Reed of the Reed Group who was working in conjunction with the city hired firm of Raftelis. Rather than taking public comment from the audience at the end of the presentation, comment was held off to the end of the regular meeting when only one member of that audience was still in attendance.
The premise that the council seems to have blindly accepted from another consultant West Yost and Associates, a firm the city has employed in various capacities over the last 20 years, is that three wells have to be completely redrilled within the next five years. The School Well is the most expensive at almost $4 million while the Industrial Well and Watson Ranch Well come in at around $2.5 million apiece. Various other improvements and rehabilitation work adds another $10 million to the project list.
In comparing current rates to surrounding communities, it was noted that those residing in Cal Water’s district already pay three times as much for water as the rest of the city. Cal Water’s infrastructure has been in place since the early 1900’s with additions through the early 1980’s. The newer part of Dixon saw the development of a joint powers agreement between SID and the city because Cal Water felt the city wasn’t growing fast enough to justify investing more resources in Dixon.
Reed’s conclusion was water rates will have to be increased by a minimum of 150% and it still wouldn’t be enough to fund all of the projects currently necessary. For the consumer, who has already suffered through the 2014 rate increase of 105%, it means that if you currently pay $100 every two months for just water, (as your bill also contains a charge for sewer), you would see your bill rise to $250. Additional increases to pay back a loan could see rates rise to over $300 for minimal usage in the summer months.
What was a glaring omission was the lack of discussion as to what happened to the monies collected from the last rate increase in 2014. According to Mayor Thom Bogue, “some of this money was expected to be used on some of the listed projects.” The staff was silent when asked about the current balances in the capital rehabilitation fund. City engineer Joe Leach stated he didn’t know what the mayor wanted when Bogue asked for an accounting of all expenses since the city took over the operation of the system in 2014.
As pointed out by the sole citizen speaking during public comment and the mayor, the city saved money by eliminating SID’s 120% surcharge on all work done for the city, hired Severn &Trent to operate the system for $100,000 less than SID was charging, and received additional revenue due to the rate hike of $700,000. The question which hasn’t been answered is where this $2 million plus is or how it was spent. Staff and consultant continue to say the system is “broke”.
A frustrated Vice Mayor Ted Hickman sent an email to this publication:
“We’ve been given an impossible situation to manage in the best interest of the Dixon water ratepayers, public and taxpayers. We’ve (the city) has taken over an abused and neglected water system that was systematically allowed to deteriorate and run into the ground while SID rat-holed all the profits instead of putting profits back in to improving and maintaining the system. Now we are faced with keeping the rates as low as possible while trying to figure out how to pay for the $14 to $25 million needed to repair the broken and tired system. The rates are going to increase dramatically and exponentially as we try to figure out how to solve this dilemma.” Councilman Ted Hickman
The council took action during the regular meeting to give the water system an “interfund” loan of $500,000 despite estimates from the consultant that there would be a $300,000 surplus this year, the exact amount the city manager contended was needed for this year. Further workshops will be scheduled on this topic in the near future.
March 30, 2018