By Jack Chestek, San Juan Capistrano
I’ve had it with my insane city water service. It has screwed the residents of San Juan Capistrano long enough. My water bill has gone up 300 percent in the past 10 years, i.e. 300 percent in 10 years. That’s like 30 percent per year.
The water management of my town is crazy. By crazy I mean they are totally obsessed with blowing millions of dollars. Let me give you an example: the city’s water factory has caused City Hall a debt of $8.2 million as of June 2012. At this time five months later City Hall is ordering $3 million more in stuff to hang on its water factory. Make sense? It makes sense to our mayor. Rather than paying down the city’s water debt, the mayor is taking $3 million in state grant funds and blowing it on his water factory. The mayor looks at grant funds as free money because it didn’t come out of the pockets of residents. (Even though it really did).
Anyhow, what really troubles me is my water service management doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care about water service to city residents. Let’s take a look at some facts:
It’s a fact: My water bill has honestly increased by 300 percent in the past 10 years. My water bill is No. 0049009 if you want to check it.
It’s a fact: I am sick and tired of my City Hall trying to cover its butt with erroneous information on water.
Note: Our mayor told me recently he had experience with water, and he respected our city manager and the manager of our water service for their knowledge and experience with water. So here I am going up against three knowledgeable water managers. Let’s see what happens.
It’s a fact: Our mayor told me he can’t see a need for more than one night of water storage in our town. This is very, very scary.
It’s a fact: Our mayor must believe his water factory is a reservoir. In this case a reservoir has to be a water treatment factory which it’s not.
It’s a fact: Our mayor believed the difference in cost of our water and Moulton Niguel’s water was in Laguna Niguel’s property taxes.
It’s a fact: There is a difference between a water bill and a property tax bill.
It’s a fact: The name Moulton Niguel Water District or MNWD does not appear anywhere on a Laguna Niguel property tax bill.
It’s a fact: Moulton Niguel takes its water from the exact same Metropolitan Water District pipeline as our water comes to us in.
It’s a fact: Moulton Niguel charges its customers a base rate of $1.38 per unit of water up to ten units or $13.80 for 10 units.
It’s a fact: Ten units of water in my town costs $35.02.
It’s a fact: A cost of $35.02 is a lot more than $13.80 for the exact same quantity and quality of water.
It’s a fact: Moulton Niguel also has a very large facility for treating water. Drive to the end of Camino Capistrano to see for yourself.
It’s a fact: My water management didn’t know or didn’t want to be responsible for figuring our present water rates so it hired an outside firm to recommend our water rates. This was late in 2009.
It’s a fact: The firm, Black & Veatch, recommended my water allotment be reduced by 33.3 percent, my water rate increased and the city’s tiered rates be adjusted.
It’s a fact: City Hall is being sued for Black & Veatch recommendations on water rates and tiered rates. Our Tier 3 rate is now 370 percent above $3.09, or $11.33. This is excessive.
It’s a fact: City Hall reduced my allocation of water without telling me or providing justification. In simple terms an outside company is telling me how much water I can have. This is not a good idea.
It’s a fact: My City Hall is charging residents over $1 million per year in water rates to service a bond it doesn’t have.
It’s a fact: Our present water rates do not cover the city’s debt of $8,226,952. This is money the city spent on its water factory but didn’t have in 2011-2012.
It’s a fact: Our water managers say our water rates are high because MWD has increased its cost of water sufficiently over the past few years. Yeah, sure. How come Moulton Niguel didn’t notice the increase in MWD cost as much as my City Hall did?
It’s a fact: Water out of the water factory cost $1,342.51 in May 2012. The cost of MWD water at that time was in a $900 range.
It’s a fact: City Hall is being sued for selling residents or charging residents for higher priced water when lower priced water was available. Obviously the treated ground water is $400 more per acre foot than the MWD water. So what is City Hall going to do? You won’t believe it.
It’s a fact: City Hall has recently projected its ground water cost to be $1,093 per acre foot in October 2012. Wow, this is interesting because the output from July to November of this year was 112 acre foot less than the same period last year.
It’s a fact: (This is the best face of all my facts).
Recall I said one of management’s justifications for our high water rate was MWD’s higher costs.
Well guess what our water management has recently decided to do? Raise MWD water delivery costs. This may come as a surprise to MWD but my City Hall reports it pays MWD $1,330 per acre foot for delivered water. This is ridiculous but it’s a perfect example of how my water managers think and operate.
It’s a fact: Within the past couple weeks our ground water cost went from being around $400 more than MWD to magically being around $200 less than MWD water.
It’s a fact: This practice can be called “cooking the books.” It can also be called lying and cheating. I call it crazy.
It’s a fact: Lying and cheating reminds me I didn’t tell you our city manager says Moulton Niguel water costs its residents $122.34 per month. The truth is it’s under $70.
It’s a fact: My water bill has gone up 300 percent in the past 10 years. I hope you are starting to see why.
It’s a fact: My gas bill has gone down over the past 10 years and my electric bill has gone up but not more than 10 percent over the past 10 years.
It’s a fact: Our city manager doesn’t seem to care there is a difference between 2,767 acre foot charts and 4,545 acre foot charts when comparing pricing.
It’s a fact: Our knowledgeable mayor didn’t know the water factory could only move its water to a height of 350 feet. Obviously, he couldn’t care less because he doesn’t believe in water storage and most of our water storage is 400 feet or more.
It’s a fact: Our mayor didn’t seem concerned that three of the water factory well pumps needed replacement. “It’s just normal maintenance.”
It’s a fact: Magically, the city’s $8.2 million water debt has been reduced to $4.8 million in five months’ time.
It’s a fact: Our city manager doesn’t understand what it means to compare “apples to apples.”
It’s a fact: Our City Hall wants to extend its water factory contract with San Juan Basin Authority (SJBA) from the year 2035 to 2060. This is a dumb idea.
It’s a fact: The mayor asked me what I thought should be done with the water factory. I said give it back to the SJBA. The mayor said it would cause a Prop 218 violation. I still say it’s a SJBA problem. My town’s residents can’t afford it any longer.
It’s a fact: The mayor made a good point comparing a 50 mph car with a 100 mph car justifying the increased output of the water factory. What he didn’t understand is I tried to tell him it doesn’t make sense to spend $3 million to make $80 million in grants from MWD. The mayor also doesn’t understand making a 50 mph car go 100 mph causes a loss in reliability not an increase.
It’s a fact: The mayor said he was aware of someone that went without water because MWD couldn’t deliver. I need to get more info on this matter.
It’s a fact: I don’t know anything about running a water agency. However, I know right from wrong and I know when I’m getting screwed.
It’s a fact: My city’s water service has screwed me long enough and I have had it. This is as factual as I can be.
It’s a fact: I’ve got more comments I’m looking at reporting like why City Hall fire hydrant painters earn $110,000 per year, why City Hall needs over 40 pick-ups, SUV’s and trucks to cover less than four miles square of city limits.
It’s a fact: Our mayor couldn’t care less about my 300 percent increase in water charges. He says he has only been involved with city water for two years. I understand this position. However, I have to say he hasn’t learned a damn thing about customer service in two years but he sure has learned how to blow millions of bucks that come out of resident’s pockets.
It’s a fact: Last but not least our water management really needs to see the city’s water factory is too expensive as a water source for our town and start correcting their problems.
Simply and briefly: City Hall has to stop screwing residents for their water. Residents have about $80 million in bond costs to pay off. No more water bill increases. Enough is enough. Oh yeah, please no more erroneous information about our water.