Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vallejo City to Privatize the Lakes Water System

"Mean-tested water?"

Letter by Mandy Mulgrew of Green Valley to the editor of the "Vallejo Times-Herald", posted 2014-02-25 []:
I am writing regarding the Vallejo/Green Valley water controversy in which the City of Vallejo continues to shirk its responsibility to reasonably maintain the Lakes Water System and is attempting to force a small group of non-resident customers to foot the bill for repairing decades of neglect.
Vallejo City Attorney Claudia Quintana made some disturbing comments that imply that because some Lakes Water System customers have homes with higher than average property values that it is reasonable for Vallejo to expect them to pay exorbitant prices for a basic service like water delivery.
Ms. Quintana's focus on home values is also surprising because she is an attorney and should know that this data point is irrelevant to the merits of the lawsuit.
Should all residents of Vallejo pay more for essential services like water if their homes are valued above the mean within the city limits? What about retirees? Or veterans? Or neighbors who bought their homes decades ago and could never afford to buy them at today's prices? Let's ask a basic question, "Since when is water means-tested?"
Wouldn't any water customer push for a fair resolution when faced with water bills that are likely to balloon to $7,000 / year if the status quo is allowed to move forward?
Ms. Quintana would do well to advise Vallejo's decision makers to resolve this matter fairly instead of trying to distract the public's attention with PR spin that is irrelevant to the matter at hand.

"Frightening water scenario"
Letter by Nancy Nelson of Fairfield to the Editor the “Daily Republic” and “Vallejo Times-Herald”, posted 2014-02-16 to []:
A very frightening scenario is facing 800 families who live in rural areas of Solano County that receive household water from the Lakes Water System.
The city of Vallejo, which owns and operates the system and benefited from its water supply and revenue for decades, is preparing to sell the system to an Investor-Owned Utility. The ramifications of such a sale are no mystery – the Lakes Water System users, who already pay some of the highest water rates in the state – will see their water bills skyrocket. For some, water bills will exceed mortgage payments, and create tremendous financial strain on their families.
Investor-Owned Utilities, unlike municipal utilities, are private, for-profit enterprises that weigh the interests of shareholders over the interests of their water customers. In small California communities that have already been taken over by investor-owned utilities, water has become such a precious and costly resource, residents have been forced to make drastic lifestyle changes – showering once a week, abandoning landscaping and wearing only dark clothing, so they can wash it less. It is hard to imagine, but this could become a fact of life for Lakes Water System customers here in Solano County.
Water is not a luxury; it is a basic necessity of life. Everyone has the right to receive reasonably affordable water. I applaud the Green Valley Landowners’ Association for taking legal action against the city of Vallejo on behalf of all Lakes Water System households, to protect this right.

"Vallejo abandons local water customers"
Letter by David and Carol Eimerl of Green Valley to the Editor of “Daily Republic” and “Vallejo Times-Herald”, posted 2014-01-22 []: 
As new residents of Green Valley, my wife and I have become aware of a plan by the city of Vallejo to sell off a part of their domestic water supply infrastructure to a private company.
The city plans to sell off the Lakes Water System, which provides water to about 900 residents of Green Valley and surrounding areas. The Lakes Water System was the first water supply for the city of Vallejo, built around 1910. It is now well past its useful life of about 50 years and having had no significant maintenance it is now in dire need of refurbishment, at a cost of about $30 million. If it is sold to a private company, this cost will be borne by its customers, increasing our water bill by an estimated $1,000 per month over the next 30 years.
The city of Vallejo has enjoyed the revenue of its Lakes Water System customers for many decades. It has used these funds to build out water infrastructure for its growing population, while neglecting maintenance of the Lakes Water System. Since 1993, the city of Vallejo has been charging its Lakes Water System customers a hefty fee for supposed development of additional water resources. Yet, the city of Vallejo has been totally derelict in it obligations to maintain the Lakes Water System.
What did it actually do with the additional revenues it charged us?
The city of Vallejo should recognize its obligations to all its water customers. The Lakes Water System customers have paid more than their share to support its other customers. Now it is time for the city of Vallejo to meet its obligations to the Lakes Water System customers. Instead of callously dumping the cost of fixing the Lakes Water System on a few local customers, it should meet its obligations by charging all of its customers for all of the maintenance of all its water resources, as it has done in the past.

UPDATE 2014-08-21:
VALLEJO, CA — The City of Vallejo achieved victory yesterday against the multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by Green Valley customers to lower their water bills. Superior Court Judge Arvid Johnson dismissed the suit, rejecting each of its 12 legal theories. Green Valley Landowners Association (GVLA) sought nearly $13 million in damages, arguing that Vallejo customers should have shared in the cost of upgrades to a water treatment facility that serves only Green Valley.
In January, when the lawsuit was filed, Vallejo City Attorney Claudia Quintana commented, "California tightened its water standards years ago and this resulted in higher costs for water in the Lakes Water System area. This was due in part to a $7.25 million debt to pay for statutorily required improvements to the water treatment plant that provides water to customers specifically located in the Green Valley area. In prior years, customers residing in less-affluent) Vallejo subsidized customers in the Green Valley system, but legally, that subsidy had to stop."
Today, Quintana added, "Judge Johnson's ruling is a significant victory for Vallejo as it continues to implement changes — such as halting this type of subsidy — which allow the City to better manage its resources and ensure its financial stability."
Judge Johnson agreed with the City's argument that Proposition 218, a statewide initiative passed by voters in 1996, requires Vallejo customers to pay only their fair share. He rejected GVLA's argument that because Vallejo customers had subsidized Green Valley in past decades, they committed to help Green Valley customers in the future. Judge Johnson, who retired five years ago, was brought in to decide this particular case after multiple recusals by Solano County judges due to their ties to Green Valley.

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