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Chloride rate hike moves ahead

Posted: July 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Mayor Laurene Weste and Councilman Bob Kellar, who are on the district board, listen to public comment during the hearing. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.

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The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District introduced an ordinance Monday night to raise sewage rates so it can build a salt-removal treatment plant for the valley’s wastewater.

Under the plan given a nod Monday night, property owners who are hooked up to the district’s sewer system will see the hike on property tax bills phased in during the next six years. After that time, the rate increase would be about $100 per year for the average single-family home, district officials say.

A final vote on the rate increase will be held July 7.

The increased revenue would be used to build a treatment system to employ micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light disinfection and brine injection to reduce chloride — a naturally occurring component of table salt — from treated water that is released into the river and used by farmers downstream to irrigate their crops.

The unanimous vote by two of the three Sanitation District officials followed a public hearing at which the business community largely lined up behind the rate increase and treatment system, but some individuals raised opposition points that have been discussed for years.

“There isn’t, and there never has been, damage to crops downstream,” said TimBen Boydston, a member of the Santa Clarita City Council who said he was speaking as a ratepayer Monday night.

Farming interests in Ventura County say the salt component damages their avocado crops, and a water quality enforcement agency has imposed a 100-milligrams-per-liter limit on chloride in water released into the river.

“It is not about the chloride,” Boydston said, challenging the scientific studies done to determine chloride’s effect on Ventura County crops. “This boils down to a failure in leadership.”

“Instead of bringing the cost down, we need to bring the limits up,” Flo Lawrence, a member of the Castaic Area Town Council, said of the imposed chloride limit. “This is fabricated — nothing’s wrong with their crops.”

Nancy Lulejian Starczyk speaking for the Chamber of Commerce, Chris Chapleau speaking for the Valley Industry Association, and Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., all supported the rate increase but said the Sanitation District must continue its efforts to reduce the cost of the planned chloride-removal system.

“We do not wish the valley to be subject to ongoing fines,” Starczyk said, calling on the district to work with other water interests on a “long-term water sustainability plan.”

The district’s Board of Directors voted 2-0 Monday night to introduce an ordinance authorizing the rate increase. The final vote on the matter will be held during a meeting July 7 at Santa Clarita City Hall.

The district’s board is made up of two Santa Clarita City Council members and a county supervisor. The supervisor was not present for Monday night’s public hearing and vote.

Property owners could protest the rate increase by filling out a form or writing a letter with their opposition, parcel number and signature included.

Nearly 70,000 notices to property owners were sent out, as required under Proposition 218, district officials said. If more than 50 percent of landowners protested the rate increase, the board could not have moved forward with it.

But just 52 protests representing 57 parcels were received, district spokesman Basil Hewitt said after the public hearing was closed Monday night.

District officials have said the rate increase would funda $130 million treatment system to remove chloride from Santa Clarita Valley wastewater.

But on Monday John H. Gulledge, head of the Financial Management Department for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, said that cost was in 2012 dollars and the actual cost for the treatment plant will be closer to $205 million including financing.


stray: Posted: July 1, 2014 7:17 a.m.

"Property owners could protest the rate increase by filling out a form or writing a letter"

And how is that going to prompt the stubborn council to listen to our pleas against this rate hike?

"The district’s board is made up of two Santa Clarita City Council members"

There ya go! That's an automatic two strikes against us! Three strikes and we're OUT!

Recall this council!

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: July 1, 2014 9:29 a.m.

Just add it to the list of crooked accomplishments by the lying POS called the "city council." Like I need any more reasons to hate these crooks....

By the way. Never saw one of these forms mailed to my house. But I am not surprised.

Remember the motto of the city council: Crime pays. BIG.

ricketzz: Posted: July 1, 2014 9:38 a.m.

Gee, if we only had a local newspaper to give us the whole story...Who are these farmers that are complaining? We don't need names; I'm just not sure they weren't put up to this. Something stinks at the sewer plant.

Why do we need ultraviolet disinfection for water going into a hole in the ground?

cj64: Posted: July 1, 2014 10:38 a.m.

Allan_Cameron: Posted: July 1, 2014 10:48 a.m.

There are other aspects to this mega hundred million dollar tax, which will raise costs of food at both restaurants and markets, and prices at virtually all businesses around the SCV.

Perhaps the most interesting among many items of interest, is that the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Mr. Sam Unger) was present at this hearing.

His agency is the one that is characterized by the Sewer District as being the terrible entity that "will" fine us into oblivion, if our rates are not raised during this July.

In response to comments from those in attendance, Mr. Unger confirmed a simple truth that contradicts everything said by the Sanitation District.

Mr. Unger said that "No fines are contemplated against Santa Clarita at this time." He confirmed that the Water Board has had no agenda item what so ever in front of it, where in fines were ordered against this community if rates were not raised immediately.

The Sanitation District itself also confirmed that this issue is subject to a voter initiated referendum.

Such a referendum (and an initiative to go with it), will have the effect of returning control of this issue to where it belongs.

That would be in the hands of the people paying all of the bills.

The Sanitation District also said, with a straight face, that less than sixty votes received in this "protest" vote, from nearly 70,000 "notices" sent out, reflected adequate notice to the public.

What do you believe?

lars1: Posted: July 1, 2014 10:54 a.m.

The water we get exceeds the chloride limit imposed on our wastewater.
The ultraviolet disinfection water that is coming from the $130 Million unnecessary new treatment plant will provide drinking water for the 20,000+ homes of Newhall Ranch. That's the facts! They get us to pay for anything developers want.

The BIG DEVELOPERS have bought off our city council BIG TIME!
They are the most dishonest, unethical people I have ever seen.
Their degrading and condescending attitude towards the 18,000+ people who signed the billboard referendum was disgusting. There never is any public input on what they do. Allvision's hired lobbyist Sohikian throws them a fundraiser congratulating them for voting for Allvision's billboard deal. They only do what those who buy them off want.

Everyone should know that the "open space" tax is just another scam. The open space tax was for wealthy landowners with undevelopable property (low value) to sell the cheap property to the city at a prime cost. The city now chooses to convert the publics open space to business use for the billboards. What a bunch of crooks.

They need the water NOW, that's why this money grab is urgent.
The mailer was very deceptive. There was no protest form. That was intentional so nobody would protest. I hope it goes to court, and they are sued because of their deception.

stray: Posted: July 1, 2014 12:29 p.m.

What is the protest process?

Proposition 218 prohibits an agency from implementing an increase in the rates if a majority of the affected property owners file written protests opposing the rates before the end of the public hearing. To count toward this majority, you can submit your written protest using the form provided at the end of this section, write a letter (postal or electronic) to the Sanitation District following the requirements listed below, or hand it in at the public hearing. Only one written protest per affected property may be counted towards the majority protest.You can go the website provided below, and download a short, simple form to fill out. You need your property Parcel Number (located on your property bill - or go here and enter your address where your Parcel number is:

Then, go here and get the Protest Form...

Just print out your address and sign it! It's that simple...Please do this at your earliest convenience! --edited.

stray: Posted: July 1, 2014 12:32 p.m.

What is Proposition 218?

Proposition 218 is the initiative passed by California voters in November 1996 that establishes the process by which public agencies can raise fees for services. It was designed to provide greater public involvement in the entire rate setting process. Among other things, Proposition 218 requires the agency to mail a public notice to every single property owner regarding the proposed rate increase and then to hold a public hearing. It also establishes a protest process for the public to follow if they wish to oppose the proposed rates.

You can also scan that Protest Form on your fax machine and send it that way! --edited.

lars1: Posted: July 1, 2014 1:37 p.m.

listen to public comment during the hearing

WHAT A JOKE! It goes in one ear and out the other.

They are thinking....well that's another one we scammed on the taxpayers...
They have a zero percent approval rating. The only ones who approve of the job they are doing are the people who buy them off.

lars1: Posted: July 1, 2014 1:40 p.m.

These people are politicians.

That is made up of two parts...Poly means many.
Tics an insect that sucks blood out of you.

stray: Posted: July 1, 2014 2:41 p.m.

@cj64 - "I got this in the mail..."Notice of Public Hearing"...A protest form was not included in what I received"

Ditto that... I received the Notice also but not receive the protest form as I have the Notice of Public Hearing in my hand and nothing else came with it!

"The final vote on the matter will be held during a meeting July 7 at Santa Clarita City Hall"

So, why not accept Protest Forms BEFORE the July 7th meeting ??? ANSWER: Because the council WANTS TO FLIP THE MIDDLE FINGER at YOU once again and do what they do best - IGNORE US !!! ...

src: Posted: July 1, 2014 4:34 p.m.

Has anyone looked at the 2014 water quality report?

The mean level of chlorides in our drinking water is 96 mg/L, this is what we get out of the tap. So they want us to pay to clean up the water that's dirty when it gets to us. Sounds legit.

Or am I reading this wrong that 120 mg/L is an acceptable level to deliver to customers, but not to put down the drain.

chefgirl358: Posted: July 1, 2014 6:00 p.m.

This is the biggest hoodwink our city has ever done to us. Thank you TBB for standing up for us and using common sense. I only wish the idiots on the board would have done the same.

This is appalling. There is SO much wrong with this entire fiasco.

src: Posted: July 1, 2014 6:48 p.m.

If this goes through, can The People sue the sanitation board to stop this? It seems like an unconstitutional tax.

If they are going to build it, put the thing upstream. I mean, if we're having a gun held to our heads to pay for clean water, at least let the people who pay for it benefit from it.

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: July 1, 2014 7:08 p.m.

src: Yeah, isn't that amazing? The water is apparently good enough for us to drink, but we have to cleanse the water that goes down the drain. UNBELIEVABLE.

THIS is what you get when you keep voting in the same bozos for 20 years. When will people get off their lazy butts and vote these crooks out??!!

missyJk: Posted: July 1, 2014 7:22 p.m.

Is it safe to "assume" we can now have our water softners back? My hair and clothes have not been the same since it left

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