By The Capistrano Dispatch
We asked the candidates:
A lawsuit has been brought against the city in regard to its water rates. Do you believe San Juan Capistrano’s water rates are too high relative to other cities? Do you support the city’s continued operation of the Groundwater Recovery Plant and why? If elected, what other options would you seek out to fulfill San Juan Capistrano’s water needs?
Here are the candidates’ responses in the order in which their names will appear on the November ballot:
Water rates are not “too high” in comparison to other water districts. Many other water districts place their fees on the residents’ property tax bills, so it is difficult to compare water rates city by city without taking this into account. The Groundwater Recovery Plant (GWRP) was in operation when I came onto the City Council. It had some issues that have been addressed, and it is now producing 70 percent of our domestic water use and up to 5 million gallons of water a day! This is an investment for our future, as we all know that the competition for Sacramento Delta and Colorado River water is constantly being challenged. The cost of importing expensive Metropolitan District Water has been rising over 70 percent in the last five years and doubled over the last ten. Opponents have no other solution to our water needs than to shut down the plant and buy ever more expensive imported water from the unreliable Metropolitan Water. Just last week, the city received a $5 million grant from the state to upgrade our facility to 7 million gallons a day, increase non-potable supplies and provide emergency generators. Visit my website at www.friendsofsamallevato.com for the real facts, not spin.
I strongly support our Ground Water Recovery Plant and believe it is an investment in our future which will allow us to achieve independence from imported water sources where we have no control over cost or availability, in addition to serving 70 percent of our current water needs. We have received grants totaling over $5 million to expand the capacity of the GRWP, increase reliability and expand our use of recycled and non-potable water for irrigation purposes.
Baseless lawsuits serve no purpose and take valuable time from our decreased staff, which would be better spent on projects which serve our residents and businesses. Defense attorney fees are dollars lost for city services. The tiered-rate structure has been upheld in court three times and many of our surrounding cities are adopting it in order to meet conservation goals set by the state. Our water rates are based upon a sound, scientific rate study, as required by law, and are on par with those of our neighboring cities.
I will continue to participate in the local desalinization project (at no cost to the city) and collaborate with water agencies at the local and state level to address pressing issues with intelligent solutions.
When elected, I will work to implement a city resolution to purchase water from the least expensive source, eliminate the tiered water billing system that drives up our rates and charge customers only for the actual cost of delivering water. That is what the current Capistrano Taxpayers Association (www.capotax.org) lawsuit is all about. Over a period of nine years, incumbent Sam Allevato did nothing to solve the problem and help the residents. All he kept repeating was, “I didn’t start this monstrosity,” while voting to raise water rates over and over again. Because of this, San Juan Capistrano is going to spend 25 years and many millions of residents’ dollars to try and correct the design flaws of this mistake. Then in 2035, the city turns the plant over to the San Juan Basin Authority! After all this, San Juan’s share of the water drops from 100 percent to 25 percent. Is this being done to provide another source of water for Rancho Mission Viejo Company’s newly built 14,000-home city? All of this will have been supported by incumbent Councilman Sam Allevato. When elected, I will fight to correct this horrendously bad deal for the residents.
Our rates are high. I plan to tackle this problem with fresh eyes and a business mentality. We must look at every option when we use taxpayer dollars on this scale!
First off, we can buy water from Metropolitan Water District for less than producing water from the groundwater recovery plant. The Council majority has ignored this reality and has supported the GWRP because it “diversifies our water supply.” Yet, the Council has dropped out of the local desalinization project. Furthermore, the Council has reduced our emergency reservoir supply by 34 percent. Alongside “diversifying” our water supply, we need to “diversify” our financial risk and our costs.
If elected I will work to provide ratepayers a full report of all our choices. Here are some GWRP options to consider:
• Reducing fixed costs. These costs exist whether we produce 1 gallon or 5 million gallons.
• Maintaining the status quo.
• Expanding capacity (lower rates using economies of scale).
• Reducing capacity.
• Pausing production, until MWD water prices rise. (What are the costs to restart the plant?)
• Selling or transferring the plant to a larger entity or regional water district.
The GWRP presents a business problem I am keen to solve for our town.
I ask for your vote: www.tomforsjc.com
Roy L. Byrnes
Our water factory is a poorly designed, bureaucratic misadventure which has needlessly doubled water cost, produced multi-million dollar deficits and burdened our city with $42 million of debt. Desperate for cash to pay the cost to operate this debacle, San Juan has ignored the requirements of the California Constitution and increased water rates without justification. The City Hall politicians are not truthful—They understand that full disclosure of the costs of their “water factory” folly would lead to a city-wide political revolt as water rates soar and water bills begin to resemble mortgage payments. For nine years, incumbent Councilman Allevato has failed to address our water problems.
The taxpayer lawsuit will compel San Juan to follow the state law respecting water rates. This lawsuit is the citizen’s method to determine whether City Hall practices are legal. The lawsuit was only filed after repeated appeals to the City Council, including appeals to Mr. Allevato, were ignored.
I advocate purchasing water from the lowest cost source and renegotiating the water factory lease agreement. I also advocate an immediate new water rate structure be established that complies with Proposition 218. Water customers should pay only the cost of services they actual use.