By Matt Williams
The first question about meeting number 4 of the Water Advisory Committee has to be, “What were the Neilsen Ratings?” Thanks to the key decision from the last WAC meeting. There actually was a broadcast to watch.
Did you watch? If you didn’t, will you use the City of Davis website to watch the archived video of the meeting? Hopefully, the answer to at least one of those two questions is “Yes.” If you do watch, the following Agenda (available at http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/water-advisory/Water_Advisory_Committee_Agenda_02-09-12.pdf) will be useful:
2. Approval of Agenda
3. Approval of Minutes from January 26, 2012 WAC meeting
4. Public Comment (The public may comment at this time on any item not on the agenda.)
5. (60 min) Scope of Work for Rate Study (Dianna Jensen from City Staff)
6. (60 min) Wastewater Regulatory Requirements and the Surface Water Connection – a Discussion of Wastewater Effluent Water Quality Objectives (Michael Lindquist and Stan Gryczko from City staff)
7. (10 min) Special Meetings, Length of Meetings, and Functions of the Committee as stated in the Council Resolution
8. (20 min) Long Range Calendar
9. Adjourn Meeting
The most important, and most actively discussed item of the meeting was Item 7 where the WAC tried to bring some clarity to what the boundaries are for its activities, votes and recommendations to Council. As noted in the Staff Report for this item:
“At the January 26th meeting of the Water Advisory Committee members voiced concerns about the amount of material being disseminated, and the short amount of time this committee has to process the information. Discussion included: extending the length of the meeting; adding workshop meetings on specific topics requiring more detail; and skipping the presentation portion of the items and going straight to questions. There was also discussion about the need for clarification of the committee’s charge.
With respect to clarifying the charge of the committee, the Staff Report for Item 7 included the following purpose and functions as outlined in the resolution passed by City Council when it created the WAC on December 20th.
The Water Advisory Committee is to advise the City Council on the City’s water rates, water conservation assumptions and programs, and related water matters as directed by the City Council.
FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMITTEE The Water Advisory Committee shall have the responsibilities as provided in this section and such other duties as the Council may, from time to time, decide:
a. To recommend annual adjustments to the City’s water rates after careful review of the facts and key information pertaining to the City’s water system and infrastructure as required in the rate setting process.
b. To consider costs associated with providing water service that include, but are not limited to: operations and maintenance, repair and replacement, large capital projects, debt service payments and reserve requirements, water fund reserves, customer water demand forecasts and water conservation assumptions, water conservation programs, financing options, utility billing issues, customer notification, and regulatory compliance.
c. To consider both short and long term factors and consequences when recommending annual adjustments to the City’s water rates.
d. To advise Council about the trade-offs of one year versus multi-year water rate policy.
e. To consider the water rates and rate structures of other communities as warranted for providing sound recommendations to the Council.
f. To review information pertaining to the Davis-Woodland Water Supply Project as it pertains to accomplishing the Committee’s mission, or as requested by the Council.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who follows Davis political matters, there were highly divergent opinions about just how broad a mandate Council had given the WAC. “The Water Advisory Committee is to advise the City Council on the City’s water rates, water conservation assumptions and programs, and related water matters as directed by the City Council.” means something very different if the all the words after the word “rates” are modifiers of the expression “water rates,” and something very different if all those words are co equals with the expression “water rates.”
You wouldn’t be reading The Vanguard if you don’t have an opinion about why Council created the WAC. Where do you stand on the following questions?
- Do you believe that the WAC’s Purpose is reviewing rates and only rates? Or do you believe Council wanted (wants) the WAC to revisit the WDCWA’s decision to pursue a Surface Water Project rather than another alternative?
- Do you believe that the WAC’s Purpose is reviewing rates and only rates? Or do you believe Council wanted (wants) the WAC to revisit the WDCWA’s decision to choose the DBO (Design Build Operate) method for constructing all the JPA facilities rather than another alternative?
- Do you believe that the WAC should make up its own mind about the above questions, or should a Council Checkpoint regarding the proposed questions be performed?
Those are the questions the WAC ultimately answered before adjourning. The discussion was lively, but in the end the WAC voted almost unanimously that 1) a Council Checkpoint should be completed as part of the next Council meeting on February 21st, so that the WAC can have Council’s response from the Checkpoint at the next WAC meeting on February 23rd, 2) report to Council that the WAC believes that the answer to the first and second questions above are that the WAC is not just about reviewing rates, and will make a recommendation to Council about whether the Surface Water Project or some other alternative is the best direction for Davis, and 3) report to Council that the WAC believes that the answer to the third and fourth questions above are that the WAC is not just about reviewing rates, and will make a recommendation to Council about whether DBO or some other project bidding/management alternative is the best direction for Davis.
Bottom-line, the WAC made a clear statement that simply looking at rates would be a disservice to the citizens of Davis and to the members of City Council. It will be interesting to see if Council confirms that statement on Tuesday.