Sewer rate hike gets OK

DOWNEY - In order to rehabilitate and possibly replace roughly 200 miles of aging sewer lines, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously consented to an increase in sanitary sewer rates paid by Downey property owners.The city received 43 formal objections to the rate hike, far below the 11,558 needed to block the Council's action. Under the new rate system, the average single-family homeowner will pay about $8.98 bi-monthly for their sewer bill, not including fees for wastewater treatment service provided by the county. Before the increase, Downey homeowners paid $1.90 bi-monthly. Multi-family homeowners will pay about $26.12 bi-monthly, and commercial customers about $27.94. The new sewer rate includes a fixed bi-monthly charge based on the number of dwelling units, water meter size or customer class, and a variable bi-monthly charge based on water usage. About a dozen people protested the rate hike Tuesday, but public works director Brian Ragland said the city could face fines, regulatory actions and third-party lawsuits if the sewers are left to further deteriorate. The city averages one sewer system overflow per month, said Ragland. The increase in revenue will allow the city to initiate a system-wide cleaning and video inspection program. Two full-time employees and one part-time employee will be hired to focus on the sewers. "This isn't a glamorous issue, but this is a necessity," Councilman David Gafin said of the rate hike. "The sewers need to be replaced." In other action, the Council: •Recognized neighborhood watch block captains for their one-year anniversaries of service; •Recognized Downey residents Julio and Juanita Barrera for their support of the city's military banner program; •Issued a proclamation declaring March 27 as Arc Walk for Independence Day; •Authorized city staff to solicit informal bids to renovate the athletic turf on Discovery Sports Complex soccer fields and appropriate $29,000 for the work; •Approved a permit request by the Downey Chamber of Commerce to close Brookshire Avenue on May 1 for the Street Faire; •Approved an expenditure plan for Prop. 1B local streets and roads funding; •Received and filed a report detailing administrative actions to close a $4.78 million budget deficit; •Dismissed consideration of a publicly-funded July 4 fireworks show; •Established a veterans memorial ad hoc subcommittee consisting of council members Roger Brossmer and Mario Guerra; •Viewed a preview of the new city of Downey website, scheduled to go live April 1; •Amended city manager Gerald Caton's employment contract and entered into a memorandum of agreement with Gilbert Livas to take over as city manager upon Caton's retirement on Dec. 30, 2011.

********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49