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Antioch Council approves water and sewer rate increases, Ogorchock votes against tiered rates

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

By John Crowder

The Antioch City Council, on two votes, one split and one unanimous, voted to increase both sewer and water rates for Antioch residents, at the May 12 council meeting.

Following a public hearing at which Antioch residents spoke out against Water and Sewer Rate increases proposed by city staff, and Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock questioned the need for tiered water rates, the council approved both.

The first vote on the tiered rates was split, with Ogorchock casting the lone dissenting vote and the second vote, for capacity charges, passing unanimously.

According to a staff report by City Engineer and Director of Public Works Ron Bernal, “The proposed rate adjustments are necessary to maintain the financial stability and the structural integrity of the City’s Enterprise Programs.”

He also said, “If these enterprise funds run dry, the General Fund would be tapped to provide the funding necessary to operate the enterprises.”

According to Bernal, the rate adjustments were due to, “new regulatory mandates, as well as increased costs affecting both Water and Sewer operations.”

He listed operating and maintenance expenses including labor, utilities, supplies and materials, and capital expenditures for infrastructure. Bernal also referenced, “the rising costs of purchasing and treating water.”

This year, due to the high salinity levels in the river, from where Antioch usually pumps most of it’s water, the city is having to purchase 95% of its untreated water from the Contra Costa Water District.

Under California law, a city council is unable to increase water rates if half of those impacted by the new rates object in writing. In order to ensure compliance with the law, during a break in the proceedings, City staff publicly counted all written objections to the proposed rate increase that had been received, and at the conclusion of the process the council was informed that only 54 comments had come in. The threshold for preventing the increase, based on the 31,056 notices sent to the public, was over 15,000 comments required to be in opposition.

Tiered rates

In a lengthy discussion regarding the rate increases, council members, in particular Ogorchock and Rocha, questioned why a “tiered rate” was necessary, with Rocha pointing out that a larger family in a single household would be required to pay higher costs per person, even when they were using less water per capita.

At one point, Ogorchock put forward the idea of a motion that would allow for an overall increase, but with only one rate.

After comments by City Manager Steve Duran and City Attorney Lynn Nerland, however, with each pointing out that under her proposal the rate for the people who would have been under the lowest tier rate would be subject to a higher rate, it was determined that such a decision would require another notice be sent to the public notifying them of the new rate structure, and she determined not to pursue her idea.

Water and sewer funds used for police, other budget items

Another issue raised by Ogorchock dealt with money being transferred out of the water and sewer funds.

When I’m looking at the study, the sewer fund, Fund 621, when I’m looking at transfers out, and it has with rate increase and with no rate increase, what are the transfer outs for ‘15-’16 for $602,375? Then in ‘16-’17 they’re going to go up to $678,592, do we know that?” she asked.

Merchant responded to Orgorchocks questions.

So, there’s several transfers out that are part of there,” she said. “A few hundred thousand goes to pay for police services protecting the water and sewer enterprise. The sewer fund has the transfer out as well, There’s a hundred thousand dollars that goes toward capital project sidewalk improvements, which is paid for out of the capital improvement fund. Part of the transfers out go to pay for GIS services…mapping the water and sewer lines in the ground, so it’s broken up into several portions of that.”

In response to a further query by Ogorchock, Merchant said, “And in the water fund the transfers are of the same nature.”

Public Works staffing rejected

During an earlier special budget session, prior to the regular council meeting, Mayor Wade Harper was joined by Antioch City Council Members Tony Tiscareno and Monica Wilson in a 2-3 vote to reject a proposal by city staff to hire two new technicians requested by Antioch’s Public Works department. Council Member Mary Rocha and Ogorchock, who had made and seconded the motion to approve, voted for the positions.

Had the positions been approved, an additional expense of $131,000 per year would have been added to the City’s Water Fund and the same amount added to the City’s Sewer Fund, for a total of $262,000 in additional salary expense.

According to a staff report submitted to council members by Dawn Merchant, Antioch’s Finance Director, the positions were needed in order, “to make sure that data collected in the field is complete and accurately recorded to comply with State and Federal regulations as they apply to Water Distribution,” and so that reporting related to sewer management, “compliance is timely and accurate.” Other duties the positions would have assumed included coordination of training and providing education to the public.

During discussion regarding the positions, Harper, noting that only four months had elapsed since city worker furloughs were ended, asked why the duties to be performed under the new positions could not be done by current staff, perhaps through reclassification of certain jobs.

Mike Bechtholdt, Deputy Public Works Director for Antioch, responded to Harper.

It’s strictly volume of work,” he stated. “Our Admin Staff, which is attempting to do some of this, they’re overwhelmed with calls and they’re starting to fall behind. And when you have water and sewer calls, you cannot fall behind. One fine, will more than pay for both of these technicians for years. So that’s why, one of my first statements was, we look at this as a defensive position.”

We run the risk of liability and fines, and that’s the main reason for proposing this, basically trying to stay out of trouble and stay compliant,” he added.

Tiscareno expressed concern over the timing of the hiring proposal.

I support the positions,” he said, “I don’t support at this particular time.”

After Tiscareno’s statement, Harper added, “My feelings are similar, I support it but not at this time.”

We have to look at this in light of that entire department,” he added, and referenced the current salary negotiations being undertaken by the city and employees.

Wilson then stated she also felt the timing was wrong, and that, at this time, “we’re asking a lot of the citizens.”

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26, at 7:00 p.m. Meetings take place in the City Hall Council Chambers, located at 200 H Street. They can also be viewed on Comcast Channel 24 or via live stream on the city’s website at www.ci.antioch.ca.us.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch Council adopts new drought-water conservation policies, daily fines

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

By John Crowder

In response to the current drought, new water conservation measures and penalties were adopted by the Antioch City Council at their meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

According to a staff report submitted by Director of Public Works Ron Bernal, the recommended action was necessary, “In order to meet the requirements of recent restrictions placed on water agencies by Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-29-15, and to comply with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Emergency Regulations for Drought Emergency Water Conservation.”

Noting that failure to take action could result in the City paying fines of up to $10,000 per day, Bernal outlined some of the prohibitions for residential water users, including:

  • Watering of outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes excessive runoff

  • Watering of outdoor landscapes up to 48 hours after measurable rainfall

  • Watering of outdoor landscapes more than three days per week

  • Watering of outdoor landscapes during the daylight hours of 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

  • Washing paved or other hard-surfaced areas

  • Use of water for non-recirculating decorative fountains

  • Using a hose without an automatic shutoff nozzle

  • Failing to repair a controllable leak of water

Penalties for failure to comply with these, and other prohibitions for non-residential water users, range from $100 per day for the first offense and up to $500 per day for the third.

Only one comment was submitted by an Antioch resident opposing the proposed action, and it was read by Mayor Wade Harper, who then closed the public hearing. With nobody else from the public requesting to speak on the matter, a motion was passed on a 5-0 vote.

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Highway 4 Corridor Projects lane closures and traffic information for week of May 16 – 22

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

*Revised on May 20, 2015

FULL FREEWAY CLOSURES:

State Route 4:

State Route 4 will be closed in the eastbound direction between the eastbound off ramp and the eastbound on ramp at A Street/Lone Tree Way on Saturday morning from 1:00 am to 5:00 am.

State Route 160:

State Route 160 will be closed in the northbound direction between the State Route 4/State Route 160 connector ramp and Main Street on Saturday morning from 12:00 am to 6:00 am. *State Route 160 will be closed in the northbound direction between the State Route 4/State Route 160 connector ramp and Main Street on Wednesday evening from 10:00 pm

to 4:00 am.

HIGHWAY LANE CLOSURES:

State Route 4:

There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between Railroad Avenue and California Ave. on Tuesday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between G Street and Hillcrest Avenue on Saturday morning from 12:00 am to 7:00 am.

State Route 160:

There are no highway lane closures of State Route 160 planned for this week.

RAMP CLOSURES:

State Route 4:

The State Route 4 eastbound on ramp at A Street/Lone Tree Way will be closed on Friday (May 15th) evening from 10:00 pm to 8:00 am Saturday morning. Please note: the on ramp will remain open while the adjacent State Route 4 eastbound full freeway closure is in place.

State Route 160:

There are no ramp closures of State Route 160 planned for this week.

For questions or comments please send e-mail to info@4eastcounty.org.

For detour maps, click here: Hwy 4 lane closures 5-16 thru 22-15

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Glazer beats Bonilla to win “hard fought battle” in special State Senate race

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
Steve Glazer from Facebook 240x300 Glazer beats Bonilla to win “hard fought battle” in special State Senate race

Steve Glazer from his campaign Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

Awaiting a call from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, following the final vote count in the special 7th State Senate District election, Tuesday night, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer was happy with his victory and said he would post a statement on his Facebook page in a few minutes.

Millions of dollars were spent by both sides in this election, with mainly business interests on one side backing Glazer and union, education and health care interests backing Bonilla.

It was a hard fought battle,” said Martin Wilson, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs for the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC, which paid to send out a variety of pro-Glazer and anti-Bonilla mailers during the campaign. “We’re gratified with the results. The voters made a wise choice. He will represent the people of this district from both parties, well.”

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, as of 11:22 p.m., with the votes from all 645 precincts counted, Glazer leads Bonilla by 60,824 to 50,569 votes or 54.6% to 45.4%. In the Alameda County portion of the district he won by 56.9% to 43.1% of the vote. In Contra Costa County, much of which has been represented by Bonilla in the Assembly, Glazer won 54.08% to 45.92% of the vote.

Glazer posted the following statement on his Facebook page at 11:07 p.m.:

Today we saw that people are more important — and more powerful — than special interests, and that’s a great message for our state to hear. Our campaign struck a chord with voters frustrated by the gridlock and dysfunction in Sacramento. They want leaders who are more pragmatic than partisan, more focused on answers than ambition.

One new state senator can’t change California government on his own, but I hope to work with my colleagues to restore confidence in public policymaking and advance progressive ideals in ways that are financially responsible.

This election offered voters a clear choice. I promised to be an independent thinker committed to solving problems and serving my district. I will work hard to make sure the voters are always proud of their decision.

I am grateful for everyone who participates in our democracy and especially for the volunteers and voters who believed in my message. Thank you!”

According to Paul Burgarino, Voter Education and Engagement Specialist with the Contra Costa County Elections Office, the ballot that have been counted, were “At this point the vote-by-mail up through today and the ballots turned in at the polls.”

Those vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted as they are received by the two county elections offices, and are expected to be received over the next three days. The officials have 10 days to certify the results of the special election.

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Job Fair for Contra Costa County Fair this Saturday, May 16

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

There will be lots of positions to be filled!

WHAT: The Contra Costa County Fair will be holding a Job Fair and interviews on Saturday May 16th. Applications and interviews will take place for the 2015 Contra Costa Contra Costa County Fair which will be held Thursday May 28th – Sunday May 31st . Available positions include but are not limited to: parking and ticket sellers, ticket takers, parking attendants, customer service representatives, janitorial staff, maintenance staff, security guards and more.

Fair Management and Department Supervisors are looking for people with a strong work ethics and a high level of customer service who want to be part of the Contra Costa County Fair event. Interested applicants must bring their photo ID and a social security card to the Job Fair. Applications will be available to fill out on-site or are available on-line in advance at www.contracostafair.com

WHEN: Saturday, May 16th from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

WHERE: Contra Costa County Fairgrounds Office, 1201 West 10th Street, Antioch, CA 94509

WHY: Each year the Contra Costa County Fair hires roughly 50 – 100 people to work at the annual event, not including the local employees hired directly by our individual food vendors, carnival providers and Livestock department.

We are looking for top-notch workers who believe in keeping the Contra Costa County Fair a place where families can expect superior customer service. The goal with the Job Fair is to create a greater level of awareness among Contra Costa County residents that these job opportunities exist at the Contra Costa County Fair. The fact that we are hiring hard working local residents creates a big opportunity for those looking for work.

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Antioch city staff to research conversion to charter city, increasing property transfer tax

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

By John Crowder

For the second time in as many weeks, Antioch resident and real estate broker, Mark Jordan proposed to the Antioch City Council the idea of converting the city from a general law to a charter city as a way to increase city revenue and to deal with unfunded retirement obligations. At the April 28, 2015 council meeting, Jordan addressed the members during public comments.

Referring to the budget discussion taking place during a special session, that night, he began his remarks by saying, “Unfortunately, in three or four years, there won’t be any money for anybody. The funds that would be generated [by converting to a charter city], while they would generally go to the General Fund, the only way I could really support a transition to a charter city would be if all the money goes to pay the unfunded retirement obligations. That is really the gigantic elephant standing in the room.”

I would also want to see an overhaul of the retirement system for the city,” Jordan continued. “We need to move to a defined retirement contribution program, so that we’re not constantly looking at budgets six years down the road with twenty, thirty-million dollar deficits, or empty city hall and no services being provided.”

At the previous council meeting, on April 14, Jordan had explained that converting to a charter city would generate additional revenue by allowing the city to increase the real estate transfer tax. At that meeting, he stated that increasing the rate from the current $1.10 per $1,000 to $13 per $1,000 would have generated additional revenue of about $81 million over approximately ten years. On a $300,000 home sale, that would increase the transfer tax from $330 to $3,900.

Antioch City Manager Steve Duran, in response to an email request, wrote of Jordan’s proposal, “It’s an idea worth considering. Staff is going to do some research as to the pros and cons and report back to the City Council this fall to get their direction on the matter.”

Mayor Wade Harper, who was also contacted via email by Antioch Herald staff, provided his thoughts on the issue.

I appreciate Mr. Jordan bringing the idea forward regarding making Antioch a charter city,” he wrote. “We have to continue to look for good ideas. As we are researching and vetting the process I must always be able to answer the question, ‘How does this make Antioch better?’ At this point, I don’t have a position on the matter, as I would have to weigh how the community feels about a charter city. We do have a strategic plan in place. Conversion to a charter city is not listed in the current strategic plan.”

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, at 7:00 p.m. The council will hold a public hearing on water use restrictions due to the drought. Meetings take place in the City Council Chambers, located at 200 H Street or can be viewed on Comcast Channel 24 or via live stream video on the city’s website at www.ci.antioch.ca.us.

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City of Antioch announces hiring of new Community Development Director

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Antioch City Manager Steve Duran announced today that Forrest Ebbs has accepted the position of Community Development Director for the City of Antioch. Forrest currently works for the City of Stockton as the Deputy Community Development Director. He will begin his new position in Antioch on June 1st.

Mr. Ebbs holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Analysis from the University of California at Davis and brings over 14 years of community development experience to Antioch. He worked for the cities of Watsonville, Seaside and Monterey before going to Stockton in 2012.

He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, the professional arm of the American Planning Association, providing recognized leadership nationwide in the certification of professional planners, ethics, professional development, planning education, and the standards of planning practice.

Forrest has the technical knowledge and real world experience we need to continue to move Antioch forward.” said Antioch City Manager Steve Duran. “He understands the financial challenges that cities face, as well as the balance between economic development, sound planning practices, and the need to fund city infrastructure and services. He is a great addition to our team.”

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Antioch Council approves regional police communications system participation, water park improvements, $15,000 for July 4th fireworks

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

By John Crowder

The Antioch City Council adopted a resolution approving a 60-day extension to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Antioch and Public Employees’ Union Local 1 (Local 1) and also appointed two new Planning Commissioners at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. On budget matters, they approved agreements that will lead to improvements at Prewett Park’s Antioch Water Park, voted to provide some funding for the Fourth of July event, and agreed to become a participating member of the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA).

Local 1 MOU

According to a staff report, the MOU between the City and Local 1 expired on March 31, 2015, and the City remains in negotiations with the union. At the suggestion of the Local 1 Business Agent, staff was recommending a 60-day extension to the current MOU, which would have no financial impact. As part of the consent calendar, the resolution was adopted on a 5-0 vote, with no discussion.

Two Commissioners Appointed

The City Council voted to appoint a new Planning Commissioner and a new Economic Development Commissioner. Each commissioner was appointed on a 5-0 vote.

Al Mason, a 10-year resident of Antioch, and currently retired, was appointed to the Planning Commission. Mason’s last position, according to his resume, was as Director, Business Development for WORKFLOWONE. In that position, he worked to establish long-term business contracts with Fortune 1000 companies. Prior to that position, Mason was Vice President, Sales, with REGULUS.

Joshua Young, an insurance agent with Diablo Valley Insurance, and who has lived in Antioch for 25 years, was appointed to a short-term vacancy (the term expiring in June, 2015) on the Economic Development Commission.

Water Park Improvements

The City Council, on two 5-0 votes, authorized the City Manager, Steve Duran, to execute agreements with RHAA Landscape Architecture to provide design services for improvements planned for Antioch Water Park, and with QPCS to provide a security camera system for the facility.

According to Lonnie Karste, President of Karste Consulting, and the consultant working with city staff on the water park project, improvements will include a splash pool, all-abilities playground, lighted sports court, and a group picnic area, in addition to the security camera installation. “We’re trying to get the major community service elements developed first,” said Karste.

During Council comments on the matter, Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock asked what progress was being made in seeking grants for the all-access playground. Karste responded that, while it has been investigated, grant funding availability is very limited, for a number of reasons.

Ogorchock also asked about the funding for the projects. Karste said that the funding is coming from the remaining $2 million available in Mello Roos funds, and that no additional funding beyond that is being considered.

Funding for July 4 Event

Wayne Harrison, Joy Motts, and Martha Parsons, with the Celebrate Antioch Foundation, asked that the City partner with them by providing funding, at a sponsor level, for the July 4th event.

According to a staff report, “The Antioch Police Department (APD) estimates its costs associated with this event will be approximately $20,475 based on previous experience. The Public Works Department estimates its costs for this event will be approximately $8,100.”

While the parade will continue to be held downtown, the remainder of the event has been moved to the county fairgrounds. Motts, in response to a question by Council Member Tony Tiscareno, listed several factors that make the fairgrounds a preferable venue for the event, including that the area is fenced, has restrooms available, and allows for private security to be effectively used.

We’re just trying to make sure that everybody stays safe, and that we have a great event for the community,”she said.

During Council discussion, Tiscareno questioned the difference between the cost for police services if the event were to be held downtown rather than at the fairgrounds. Antioch Police Chief Alan Cantando said that, on July 4th, officers will be brought in on overtime.

Based on estimates of the size of the event, Cantando said that, “When I hear that we’re the only show in town other than Oakley, that tells me that other people from other communities are going to be coming in to the City of Antioch for the fireworks and that’s definitely going to indicate that everyone that we have scheduled for overtime is going to have to be here.”

Duran also addressed the overtime cost, pointing out that the overtime for this, and other events typically supported by the city, is included in the budget when it is developed. “These are baked into the budget,” he said, “we don’t have to add anything.”

Mayor Wade Harper, after pointing out that the City is a partner in the 4th of July events, as costs for city services are absorbed by it, said that he would like Antioch to provide “at least $15,000” through the Arts and Cultural Foundation to help with other costs.

Council member Mary Rocha then made a motion to provide $15,000 from the General Fund in support of the 4th of July event. The money would be provided to the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch, as fiscal agent, if the group is willing to serve as such. Otherwise, the money would go directly to Celebrate Antioch. The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

EBRCSA

Cantando and Antioch Police Captain Tammany Brooks gave a presentation to the Council about the EBRCSA system. Cantando explained that, EBRCS, “is basically a digital radio system, that every agency in Alameda and Contra Costa County are on, with the exception of the City of Antioch and the City of Oakland.” “If we go to this system we will be able to communicate with all agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, to include the fire department,” he continued. “It’s an officer safety issue, as well as a public safety issue,” he said. Cantando then provided the Council with examples of difficulties his department had experienced by not being on the system.

The cost for going to the EBRCS system, according to a staff report, is “approximately $1.83 million for the purchase and installation of system equipment, as well as a monthly recurring cost of approximately $8200 in user subscription fees to utilize these radios.”

During council comments, Tiscareno said, “We need to make sure that we provide a safe service for our police department and our residents, and if this is one method of doing so, I’m going to promote this.”

Ogorchock made the motion to adopt the resolution authorizing Antioch’s participation in EBRCSA, and it was seconded by Rocha. Following another statement in support of the resolution by Harper, the Council voted 5-0 in favor.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, at 7:00 p.m. at which they will discuss the city’s response to the emergency drought restrictions. Meetings take place in the City Hall Council Chambers, located at 200 H Street or can be viewed on Comcast Channel 24 or via live stream video on the city’s website at www.ci.antioch.ca.us.

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