When driving down Pennington Road in Live Oak it is obvious that trouble is brewing when it comes to the City of Live Oak raising their water rates. A recall effort is underway for the City Council and Rick Dais is the man behind the cause.
Dais is questioning why City Manager Jim Goodwin paid $100,000 for a rate study that was originally quoted at $40,000 before questions were asked by the City causing the amount to go up.
When Mayor Jason Banks was questioned about this drastic increase, the Mayor stated the Council originally approved $60,000 but had issues with the study and Goodwin met with the people hired to do the study without the council's input and the City was charged for their changes. An amendment since made by Council spells out that Goodwin can no longer work on rate studies without their approval.
"We spent $20,000 for a rate study that told us we should have raised rates," Mayor Banks stated.
Dais is concerned about the amount of money Goodwin makes as the City Manager when Live Oak is not a full service city meaning they don't provide their own fire protection or law enforcement. According to Goodwin's contract he is paid $139,548.32 per year.
Goodwin's performance will be the subject of an annual view in closed session following the September 6, 2017 regular council meeting when Dais and others plan to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. The group will also be holding a rally before the meeting in what Dais calls a "Going Away Party" for Goodwin offering free food for the people attending the 6 p.m. meeting.
"Live Oak is full of hard working people who are struggling and can't afford a 91 percent increase in one day," Dais said.
"They are sticking it to the poor. They are paying $2.90 per unit. A unit is 748 gallons. Poor people can't pay that," he stated.
Goodwin stated the numbers are not what is reflected in the 2016-2017 budget, "For water, the rate proposal is based on residents paying for what they use. The current rate allows 20 units of water and the data shows the median user only uses about 12. That means under the current rate, the low water users subsidize the high water users and have no reward for their conservation of water, in or out of a drought year. The water rate increase for low water users is small, but large water users do pay more. Also, with regard to sewer, the rate actually goes down during the first two years of the rate period."
For more information on the water rate schedule visit www.liveoakcity.org.
Mayor Banks plans to make sure the City of Live Oak pays their own water bills before raising the rates for the residents.
"We are not metering city property. We owe it to our citizens to do that before we raise their rates. The City has not paid for their own water for at least seven or eight yours," the Mayor stated.
Dais plans to defeat the water rate increase before the September 27 vote which would go into effect October 1, 2017. The water increase was voted unanimously by the City Council.
Dais explained that 42 percent of the water revenue and 49 percent of sewer revenue is applied to personnel costs.
Mayor Banks is especially curious as to why 45 percent of Goodwin's salary is covered by water and sewer, his administrative assistant's salary is covered 60 percent by water and sewer, a financial analyst's salary is covered 80 percent and two other employees at 70 and 80 percent covered by water and sewer funds.
"How can you spend that much?" he asked. "There have been no time studies done in over two years at least," Mayor Banks said.
"People are tired of it. They are upset in Live Oak. They went too far with an increase of 91 percent in one day," stated the man who calls himself a rabble rouser.
Goodwin stated 2016-2017 budget has labor as a percentage of total expenses for water around 41 percent and the labor as a percentage of total expenses for sewer lower than 38 percent.
Dias was involved in a fight in Yuba City when their water rates were to be raised 81 percent but ended up being 29 percent because of the 2,532 signatures gathered. Dais quotes Prop 218 and it's applicability to water rates.
Besides signage, Dais has been going door to door to speak with the people and gather the 1,200 signatures he needs.
"People need to be involved. I do not like poor people being lied to. The handout they gave out is patently misleading," he said.
Dais continued, "I love Live Oak. The people are great. People in Live Oak have a major opportunity to find out what is happening. If they are happy to pay a guy $139,000 more power to them."
Dais stated his average water bill used to be $23.97 and is now $45.82 per month for the same amount of water before the October 1, 2017 increase.
Mayor Banks pointed out that the Council is not obligated to make the full increase at once.
A public workshop is scheduled to address the water rate increase with residents at the Community Center Thursday, September 7 at 6 p.m., where residents are encouraged to bring their current water bills to learn what their new rate would mean to them should it pass September 27, 2017.