By Larry Kramer, Mayor of San Juan Capistrano
This is in response to Jack Chestek’s letter to the editor in the last Dispatch. I had had a conversation with Jack a few weeks ago about water in San Juan Capistrano. I would just like to correct a couple of his points.
He writes, “Our mayor told me he can’t see a need for more than one night of water storage in our town.”
Fact: At present we have about three days storage in reservoirs. Without the Groundwater Recovery Plant we would need many more reservoirs to increase our capacity to at least one week. To increase the storage to one week, it is estimated to cost about $40 million to construct above-ground steel and concrete reservoirs. Do you want to spend that much money and do you want a storage tank near you? Of course, the cost of building those additional storage tanks would be reflected in your water bill.
He writes, “Rather than paying down the city’s water debt, the mayor is taking $3 million in state grant and blowing it on his water factory. The mayor looks at grant funds as free money.”
Fact: It is against the law to use this grant money to pay down the city’s water debt or to fund operations. It must be used for capital improvements and that is what the city is doing. If we do not use the $3 million for capital improvements within the city of San Juan Capistrano, it will go to surrounding cities. I prefer for it to be used in our city instead of other cities.
He writes, “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.”
Fact: Setting water rates under California law is very technical and because we only do it once every few years, it is standard practice to hire an independent, reputable firm to determine water rates for water utilities. Otherwise, we have to overstaff to maintain expertise we only use during rate-setting every three years or so.