Cloverdale council preview

The Cloverdale City Council meeting on June 9 is bound to be a long one, as the council is slated to hold three public hearings — for its water and wastewater rate increases, one for its 2021-22 budget and a third for its landscaping and lighting assessment districts — as well as conduct interviews with the end goal of appointing and swearing in a new council member. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and the full agenda for it can be found here.

Before the council begins addressing its throng of big decisions, it will issue a proclamation declaring June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Ally Pride Month.

It will also be considering items on the consent calendar, which include:

●    Resolution awarding Cloverdale Sewer System Inspection and Leak Testing Project to National Plant Services, Inc in the amount of $168,101

●    Resolution awarding the Cloverdale Fourth Street Reconstruction Project to REGE Construction, Inc in the amount of $419,370

●    Resolution establishing the appropriations limit for Fiscal Year 2021-22

●    Resolution approving a budget amendment for a professional services agreement with Coastland Civil Engineering, Inc to provide professional engineering and land surveying services for the 4th Street Reconstruction Project in the amount of $59,252

Fiscal Year 2021-22 Budget

The Cloverdale City Council is holding a public hearing on the city’s budget Wednesday.

While the budget includes a sizeable reserve, the city is anticipating that approximately $524,000 of the city’s reserve balances will be needed to close the gap between city expenditures and revenue in its General Fund, as well as $53,000 in its Water Enterprise Fund and $1.15 million in its Sewer Enterprise Fund, according to the city council agenda.

The draft budget was presented at a May 26 council meeting. Since then, the budget has been changed to reflect the following:

●    $35,000 from General Fund for Rate and Apportionment Study for CFD

●    $30,000 additional from General Fund for Clover Ready project

●    $30,000 from General Fund for Vegetation Management

●    $5,000 from General Fund for Friday Night Live subsidy

●    $8,000 reduction of General Fund expenditures to remove Boys and Girls Club subsidy

●    $3,000 from General Fund for 211-Essential Community Services

●    $5,000 from General Fund for History Center subsidy

“The projected ending fund balance is 19.6% greater than council policy minimum reserve balance of 25%. However, the fund balance includes a mix of unassigned, assigned and committed funds. Based on the estimated General Fund Reserves Balances as of 6/30/2022, the unassigned portion of the fund balance is $1,907,313,” reads the council background information about the budget.

During the council meeting City Manager David Kelley and Finance Manager Susie Holmes will present the final budget for review and possible adoption. If the council chooses to direct city staff to make more budget amendments, they have until June 23 to do so.

Water and Wastewater Rates

After months of council meeting discussions and heading back to the drawing board once, the Cloverdale City Council will once again be holding a public hearing and voting on the city’s proposed water and wastewater rates.

The proposed water rates outline a 6% increase in July 2021 and a 12% increase in July each year, from 2022 to 2025. The proposed wastewater rate increases outline a 3% increase in July 2021, with a 10% increase in July each year, from 2022 to 2025. According to Mark Hildebrand of Hildrebrand Consulting, who performed the city’s water rate study, the proposed water rates represent a cumulative increase of 67% over five years (down from the 84% increase proposed in November 2020) and the proposed wastewater rates represent a cumulative increase of 51% (down from the 119% proposed in November 2020).

The increase in proposed rates is largely due to years of “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to the city’s water and wastewater system infrastructure. After years of the city implementing increases that aligned with inflation, the city hasn’t saved up enough in its water and wastewater funds to complete some of its costly infrastructure improvements.

But a need for infrastructure improvements doesn’t lessen the financial blow to residents.

By June 8, the city received over 500 pages of public comment in opposition to the proposed increases, with many residents both urging the city to seek out additional funding from state and federal grants to help fund Cloverdale’s long-delayed infrastructure improvements. Of the forms submitted in protest, community members brought concerns about community members’ financial stability to the forefront, with many people mentioning either being on fixed incomes or struggling as a result of the pandemic.

One person who wrote in multiple times for public comment, Rob Koslowsky, said that he tabulated all of the “vote no” responses that the city received through June 3, parsing them out by reason. According to Koslowsky, 23% of people noted they were on a fixed income, 14% urged the city to stop new development, 12% mentioned financial hardship, 11% mentioned city mismanagement and 10% mentioned lack of transparency. Additional letter writers, according to Koslowsky’s tally, cited pandemic hardship, a desire for the funds to come from the federal and state governments and existing water conservation.

At least one resident suggested the city offer a waiver for older people who may be on a fixed income. According to census data, in 2010 18.9% of Cloverdale’s population was over the age of 65.

Respondents emphasized the city’s development choices as a reason for opposing the increasing costs, urging the city to both implement a moratorium on development and to charge developers more fees with the goal of it could be allocated to help with water and wastewater infrastructure.

“The past couple years we have already seen (water) restrictions due to drought. So, let’s build some more houses/apartments with no (water)? Where is the reasoning — very poor planning,” one resident wrote. “Residents have been out of work due to the pandemic, overall a very bad time to increase rates to begin with.”

To view the most recent SoCoNews reporting on water rates, go here.

Choosing a council member

On Wednesday, the city council is interviewing five candidates who threw their hats into the ring to fill a vacant council seat that’s set to expire in December 2022. The candidates include Joe Palla, Eric Sanders, Maeta Emmons, Nicole Garcia-Hinchliffe and Jenny Candelaria-Orr.

The council will be asking all applicants the same set of interview questions during a public interview process, after which they will deliberate and choose which candidate they want to fill the city’s vacant council seat.

Palla served on the Cloverdale City Council for 12 years, from 2006 until he decided not to re-run for the seat in 2018. Candelaria-Orr ran for city council in November 2020, placing third behind current Vice Mayor Todd Lands and incumbent Councilmember Melanie Bagby. Sanders currently serves on Cloverdale’s planning commission. Garcia-Hinchliffe ran for a council seat in 2020, finishing fifth. Emmons’ past civic engagement includes donating a car to the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center last year to help it raise money.

In a May council meeting, the council unanimously decided to open the position up for an application process rather than one involving a special election, which would cost the city $16,000 and $26,500.

To read more about how the candidate is selected, go here.

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