During the Public Hearing, Brooks Mitchell from the audience started conversation on requiring water meters. Mary Fleming Leslie, from Rural Community Assistance Corporation, stated they would use meters and she recommended a start date of July 1 as they need about a year to see actual usage. She said the base rate will go down as residents are charged for usage. She called it “equalizing things.” Mary was questioned if 40,000 gallons is the initial use. She said no, most utilities start with a flat rate.
Base is to have the water available, treated and safe. Variable costs are for power and chemicals. The cost of pumping is the biggest cost.
Sierra County Supervisor Jim Beard stated he’s against any new costs and asked when they will switch to a base and metered and the minimum and maximum. Mary explained gallons are not included in the base rate and that some communities include like 1,000 gallons in the base which is a marketing ploy. Jim spoke for those on fixed incomes of $1,000 a month or less. Mary hoped to relay her compassion yet her first priority was sustainability of the water system but she knows it’s a low income area on a fixed income. She told of trying ten different options to get the rates down and stated we’re “Very fortunate Cussins works on a voluntary basis.”
Mayor Mark Marin wanted the water meters on by July 1st and asked, “What’s the excuse why they’re not read.” Public Works Director Nancy Rogers said they didn’t have routes and one maintenance guy was “tied up at the plant.”
Mary told how all meters are up and running except at the park which was a “pretty important one to have.” They need manpower and it’ll “take about a week.”
City Clerk Kathy LeBlanc said they’d created four routes, and stating, “I’m ready.”
Joe Dines asked the ultimate goal to read meters. Mary called it the “most fair way.” Joe answered he’d sell all his rentals because he won’t get people to pay. Mary called it “Legally required fairness to the community.”
It was stated the community used close to a million gallons a day but according to Kathy, “Close, but not that.”
Brooks Mitchell wanted to know if they’d dial the meters back to zero and Kathy answered they’d start with the number of a 15-year average and the volume should be high without even starting.
Mark Lombardi wanted to know who Mary works for with Mary answering RCAC with a goal “to help small communities thrive and survive.” Mark felt she’s “had the exact opposite effect,” thinking she was here for the budget. She told of loan concerns and Mark called it a “massive increase of water.” He told of logistics and “You’re gone and we’re stuck with higher water rates.”
Mary told how much the community means to her yet told of the system taking a loss. Council member Joy Markum told of being $57,000 in the hole with water and $85,000 in sewer per year. Mark Lombardi called that, “Sewer’s next.” Mary called herself, “Close as a phone call.” Mark wanted the Council to have authority. Joy said the city has been giving away water and called the $17 increase, “cheap.”
Jim Beard told of water bills doubling in eight years and Mary told of not many connections to spread the cost around. Mary reminded the group of having had.
a decrease and asked, “Anything else go down?” She added, “Loyalton has to cover the cost or somebody else will.” She told of how the county had administrative costs.
Brooks asked where they got the money to make it whole and Joy told of having no budget for two years and asked former Councilman Brooks, “Where were you?”
Mark Lombardi told of “Water up, sewer up, property taxes up. Look at year after year and inflation beats you up.” Joy told of how the “City pays too.”
Mary defended a 2% annual increase after this because of no increase in so long.
Ernie Teague stated there were 400 meters to be read and 77 vacant houses that don’t pay a dime. Kathy stated they’d been read on a route in 3 days previously and can be read with a wand that didn’t work right and the wand “disappeared.” Brooks told how the wires come loose and the ends have broken wires. There are 13 commercial meters. Joe Dines told of, how in winter, there’s a struggle with the lids and finding the box is “not a fun thing.”
Phyllis DeMartini asked about updating the computer system and was told they’d track manually because the meters are obsolete.
On November 20th the Council will adopt the ordinance for the $17 increase in monthly water rates and in 30 days, or the end of January, bills will reflect the increase. January will be the first month of the increase.
The mayor told of no maintenance on the well and the need for a new one. He stated RCAC wants to help get a grant. He told of maintenance projections from John Cussins and the USDA loan requirements of 1/10 annual payment every year through the life of the loan yet it’s not enough to cover a big payment.
By resolution, the Council introduced the ordinance.