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|Santa Cruz City Council: Bike lane, mercury, and water rates|
|Date||Tuesday September 30|
|Time||7:00 PM - 9:00 PM|
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Santa Cruz City Hall
Church and Center
Tuesday’s Meeting on September 23rd promises some weighty issues that the Council could use your input on.
The Public Works staff wants to remove parking on one side of the steep part of Western Drive so as to make room for a bike lane. Neighbors appealed the decision and the Public Works Commission sided with the bike lane (with Commissioner Richelle Noroyan dissenting in favor of the parking). The issue is now headed to City Council. If you have an opinion about whether to prioritize a bike lane or car parking on this segment of Western, go to the agenda for September 23rd at cityofsantacruz.com, then send an email to citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com or come to the meeting at 3PM, 809 Center Street. You can also get more information at the People Power website: peoplepowersc.org.
Moving a Crematorium?
The next item is way more complicated but at least as important. The Cemetery on Ocean Street Extension wants to move its crematorium across the street. The crematorium emits a small amount of mercury when the fillings are burned. They want to move it because they want to sell land near the current crematorium for a condominium complex and there is a concern that the mercury emissions would be unhealthy for the future condominium residents. Neighbors are concerned that these emissions are already dangerous and disagree with the Air District’s projections. With the help of a friend who is a mercury expert, it looks to me like the City and the Air District have done some good modeling that make it unlikely the current emissions are dangerous to the area. On the other hand, computer models do not portray specific local data and I understand that a qualified study of the specific effects of this specific crematorium could be undertaken without undue cost. This local business owner has already been through a lengthy process to try to build these condos. Should we require a more specific study of these emissions? As part of a full Environmental Impact Report?? To weigh in, brush up on your airborne chemistry classes, read the studies in the Council agenda, then contact citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
Water Rates to Go Up? Public Hearing at 7PM, September 23rd.
Our City Water Department is having a “good problem”. Under their leadership, we have reduced our water consumption by something like 25% over the last 3 years of drought. The problem is that most of the costs of our water system are fixed and don’t go down when we use less water, so we need to raise the rates. The simplest way to raise the rates is to just add to add a flat fee to our water bills. It is also not the best way to conserve water. Research shows that tying water rates to usage is an excellent way to encourage conservation. It also has the potential to create a circular budget projection. If we adjust rates so as to encourage water conservation we will, to some degree, decrease the money available to run the Water Department. While this is clearly an algebra problem that can be worked out, our overworked staff at the Water Department do not want to take it on right now in the middle of the worst drought in 50 years. A compromise between fiscal certainty and best billing practices is being suggested by staff at our 7PM hearing this Tuesday. In the proposal, water rates would go up in a simple, flat way based on a five year schedule but, prior to June 2016, the Department would come back to Council with options for a progressive (pun intended) rate structure. Is that enough to satisfy you as a water customer? If the Council doesn’t support the increase, how do we continue to pay for needed maintenance and improvements to our existing water system? To weigh in, come to the hearing and or read the report for the 7PM hearing at cityofsantacruz.com, then send an email to citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com.