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Energy & Resource Management Committee Minutes

April 20, 2005

CALL TO ORDER: Chairman McNelly called the meeting to order at 7:40 a.m.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Hardwick, McNelly, Mitchell, Roberts, Twineham
MEMBERS ABSENT: Adamson, McCormack, Murphy
PUBLIC PRESENT: None
STAFF PRESENT: Maintenance Director Savage, Assistant Planner Sowers, Clerical Support Norton
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes of February 16, 2005 were approved as written.

Motion made and seconded to take Item 6 (Sewer Program Update) as the first item on the agenda.

Discussion Items New Business

SEWER PROGRAM UPDATE

Maintenance Services Director Savage presented an in depth infrastructure analysis of the sewer system. The Committee viewed slides on the types of damage found from video inspections; the results of damaged sewer pipes; repair options; approximate costs for repair and replacement; and the total estimated cost spread over a period of time from 2005 2025 to repair and replace sewer main lines and manholes.

Director Savage stated that one year ago he brought before the City Council a request to approve a sewer fee for the purpose of paying for the cost of operating and maintaining the sewer. The City Council did not approve a fee at the time, however, the City must still comply with State requirements. This requirement mandates a number of increased maintenance operations and capital improvement programs be put in place, funded and followed. The City of Fullerton does not have adequate funding to do this.

While the expected life cycle of a sewer system is generally 50 years, the City is still trying to use this system older than 50 years without the benefit of capital improvement. Approximately 50% of the sewer system needs to be replaced or repaired. The Waste Discharge requirements specifically says that damage such as cracks, and holes that allow sewage to leak out to the surrounding soil are required to be repaired immediately, and if not the City is in violation of the Waste Discharge requirement and potentially the Clean Water Act as well.

Committee Member McNelly advised that UCI along with Orange County Sanitation District and a consultant is looking into the exfiltration issue. They have selected several sites throughout the Orange County Sanitation District and are doing analysis at these locations to determine whether any ground water has been affected if there is any bacterial contamination. It does not appear, at the test sites, that there is any major contamination.

Another issue is water that comes into the system (inflow and infiltration such as rain water or other sources). McNelly said that Orange County Sanitation District and Montgomery Watson is currently doing a study to learn what the real extent is of inflow and infiltration in terms of the average daily flow. Inflow/infiltration could amount to additional cost for treatment if significant.

The total estimated cost over a 20-year period to repair and rehabilitate the sewer main lines would range from $65,625,000 - $103,125.000 and manholes $30,000,000. The current funding is inadequate. Director Savage stated that based on the results of the video inspections revising the costs to repair and rehabilitate, the sewer fee per dwelling is now estimated at $15. The rate would be based on the amount of water used.

Committee Member Roberts asked what happens if the City Council does not approve the fee proposal. Director Savage said that the City could ultimately be fined by the State and Federal government agencies, and the fines are unlimited. Los Angeles was fined well over two million dollars for noncompliance. There could also be civil and criminal liability.

Committee Member McNelly asked what can be expected in terms of fees in the future. Director Savage replied that he has developed fee alternatives for industrial and commercial business. They will be dealt with more on a one-to-one basis. Some companies do a fair amount of water recycling and pretreatment. A more benefit in terms of reduced fees is needed for those types of users.

A recommended fee structure would be submitted to the City Council. The other option would be to use some general fund money.

Committee Member Roberts mentioned that when you put the tax on the water bill it hits only the property owners, would a head tax be possible. Director Savage said it would take a two-thirds approved vote.

Committee Member McNelly asked if the sewer fee would be correlated to water usage or water rates. Would the sewer fee go up as water rates increase? Director Savage said the fee would have no correlation with the water rate increases and would be based strictly on usage. There is also no penalty for conservation.

ACTION ITEMS:

MOTION made by Committee Member Roberts, SECONDED by Vice Chairman Hardwick to RECOMMEND to the City Council that the City take part in the International Compost Awareness Week.

Committee Member Roberts left at 8:20 a.m.

The formal meeting was adjourned as the remaining members did not constitute a quorum.

COMMITTEE COMMENTS:

Committee Member Mitchell thought that before a sewer fee is introduced that the public would need to be educated about the benefits of upgrading the sewer system. Vice Chairman Hardwick mentioned that a homeowners insurance may not cover damage from a failed sewer system. The sewer system not only belongs to the City but to the public as well.

Committee Members discussed ways in which the City could educate the public as to the reasons a sewer fee is necessary.

  • The sewer system is a public utility and cannot continue to perform at its best capacity without being upgraded.
  • Negative impacts to the City in the form of civil/criminal liability and fines.
  • Present comparison of fees of other cities.

Committee Member McNelly suggested a regional approach to a sewer utility to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Committee Member Mitchell thought too that regional control would be more efficient and save money but questioned jurisdictional acceptance to giving up control.

Committee Member Hardwick said that a letter of recommendation should be sent to City Council taking a stand on fees and encouraging the Council to move with deliberation and speediness in the direction of what needs to be done.

Assistant Planner Sowers presented a copy of the Green Pages brochure saying that this issue is organized by type of program. New information includes plastic bag recycling, energy efficiency, and fat free sewers. They will be distributed in the next few weeks with the Community Services brochure.

Committee Member Twineham asked if Staff could provide a list of the City Council appointments for the Committee.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be May 18, 2005.

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