Fullerton Water Rates – Disgust, Distrust, Anger, and Fear

Last night’s Fullerton City Council meeting brought out a number of people concerned that their water rates will be going up.  I would like to thank each and everyone of them for taking an active interest in our City!  A few of them stood and spoke before the council and many approached me after the meeting.  They expressed a wide range of emotions and sentiments.

Disgust. Distrust. Anger. Fear.

There was the universal disgust that goes with the realization that Fullerton’s leadership has been absent for decades.  There was the feeling of distrust that comes when someone feels they have been lied to about where the money goes.  Many were angry that this report was not commissioned decades ago.  Then there was fear.  Many are fearful that the few businesses in Fullerton who are heavy water users will soon pack up and head out of state to more business-friendly areas.  Others are fearful that they will have to leave, unable to afford the higher costs.

Those who sat through the 2-1/2 hour meeting observed many things.

Most notably, at least one councilman had serious trouble staying awake for the meeting.  Death by PowerPoint I believe was the cause.

Mayor Jones repeatedly used Hitler as some sort of misplaced analogy to the gross mismanagement of our water system for nearly a century.  There were several people who were clearly disgusted with his remarks.

Mayor Pro Tem Bankhead, who is a representative for the City on the Orange County Water District Board, bragged that the board hasn’t raised their tax on the City’s pumping efforts in a year even though a few key executives received raises.  OCWD charges Fullerton taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $236 per acre-foot of water that the City pumps.

The franchise tax was mentioned several times.  I pointed out that the tax should be eliminated completely which would allow the City to NOT raise water rates AND address the urgency of the neglected system.  I did misspeak on one key matter.  Specifically, I said that it would be better for the general fund to take the 10% hit rather than the taxpayers.  Actually, the water utility franchise tax ($2,474,860 FY2011) accounts for about 1% of the total budget ($180,802,880 FY2011), not 10%.  Cutting the franchise tax would increase the water fund from $27,728,430 FY2011 to $30,203,290!

So, the bottom line is that we have the funds to fix the water system but the City Council will need to adjust the City’s priorities.

Those in land development, engineering, construction or anyone else who rides Fullerton’s roads knows that the City’s priorities are out of order.  City Hall places too much emphasis on housing and transportation boondoggles while ignoring the skeleton and muscle of the City’s infrastructure.  It causes me to question whether or not our City leaders (are there any at City Hall?) have planned for repairing and replacing our roads.

Those interested in protecting the City’s infrastructure from further neglect while protecting the pockets of taxpayers are urged to attend the Water Rate Study workshops in the coming weeks and months.

11 Replies to “Fullerton Water Rates – Disgust, Distrust, Anger, and Fear”

  1. For years the city council has ignored the ugly secret of the franchise fee. It was a group conspiracy to avoid the truth.

    That 10% could be leveraged to do a lot of work. Instead it goes into the GF to pay for firemen and parks personnel, etc.


    See how much already goes to pay for the City Manager, Attorney, etc. Then ask what the 10% is for. Good luck getting a coherent answer!

    The fee is just a utility tax, pure and simple.

  2. And of course there was a speaker at the end who wanted to promote privatizing Fullerton’s water system.

  3. I have an idea. Lets add a giant housing development in the city and then we can just charge them more for water we don’t have.

  4. What? Desert Rat, are you saying the money to fix our water lines has been stolen by the city council to pay for park’s personnel. What is park’s personnel? the mow and blow crew?

    1. Yes I am saying that. Plus any other Department that receives general funds (all of them used to).

      I remember going to a water rate hearing many years ago in which Jan Flory said that it didn’t matter that water rate payers were subsidizing the City. To her it was all the same. Her colleagues over the years have always agreed since I doubt if ever a single one of them voted against an increase due to the true nature of the franchise “fee.”

      Whitaker may be the first (and only).

  5. Seeing that photo made me wonder…how much money could be saved by shutting down street lights? The City’s own website says there are 7,283 of them in Fullerton. I’ve seen figures suggesting maintenance (or is it electricity cost alone) run about $200 per year.

    No, you couldn’t shut them all off, but I don’t necessarily buy the rationale that street lights keep neighborhoods safe. Some of Fullerton’s safest neighborhoods have no streetlights at all.

    Sorry to venture off-topic…

    1. BTW, that photo was taken in Fullerton. It was a burst water main somewhere off of Rolling Hills Drive a few years ago.

      1. Jeny and I were taking a walk at about the 2700 block of Firethorne in President Homes a few weeks ago and 7 city workers in 3 trucks had a 25 x 8 x 6 hole dug out in the street because of a burst water pipe. I’m assuming that pipe was put in in approximately ’63 when the track was built.

  6. I’m wondering if the water main breaks correlate with the awfully high water pressure throughout the City?

    We get 95 PSI from the street, but the maximum pressure allowed by the plumbing codes is 80 PSI. And I think 60-75 PSI is the recommended range. We had a water main burst in the street about 4 years ago. About 2 years ago, it broke again, in front of the nextdoor neighbor’s house. Is this merely a coincidence?

  7. I tried to create a simple map using Google Earth to mark where breaks have been repaired in the Rolling Hills area between State College and the golf course. After marking more than 2-dozen breaks I gave up. It is INSANE how many breaks have occured in this area alone. Maybe the city should do some geologic study to see if that area is moving differently than the rest of the city. Maybe its all because Chevron pumped all the oil out of the ground and the area is sinking… Who knows but the city should maybe look at it.

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