City Council’s Christmas Gift is a Utility Rate Hike; Moratorium Enacted on Legal Pot Sales; Van Gent Family Honored; STEM Scholarships OK’d; and Sewer Service Denied for a Tierra Oaks Project

Redding City Council members channeled their inner Grinch on Tuesday and voted to put a lump of coal in every ratepayer’s stocking beginning in the new year.

With a 5-0 vote, the council approved rate increases for sewer, garbage and water services. Combined, the new rates are expected to add $11.22 to the monthly utility bill for the average single-family house beginning in January. The bill will increase by another $4.49 in the 2017-18 fiscal year and go up again by $4.70 in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Protest ballots were sent to ratepayers who then had 45 days to mail in their objections; ballots that were not returned were counted as “yes” votes. If the protest ballot tally reached 50 percent or higher, the council would have been barred from raising rates.

City Clerk Pamela Mize and her crew counted the ballots last week. On Tuesday she reported that some 39 percent of the approximately 26,600 water and wastewater ballots had been returned and 35 percent of the 28,949 solid waste ballots. The 50-percent-plus-one threshold had not been met.

Greg Washburn, a frequent critic of rate hikes, questioned the protest ballot methodology. “Do you honestly believe 16,000 people actually voted to raise their bill by $11 a month?” he asked, calling the ballots misleading and expressing the concern that ratepayers may not have known that not responding was the same as a yes vote.

Councilwoman Julie Winter.

Councilwoman Julie Winter. Photos by Jon Lewis.

“This isn’t about what we want, it’s a matter of need,” said Councilwoman Julie Winter. It’s not enough that Redding simply owns its utilities, she said, “but we have to care for them too. We have to manage this resource for the long term.”

Councilwoman Francie Sullivan agreed with her colleague. “I, too, want to be sure we have safe water and toilets that flush.” Councilwoman Kristen Schreder called the rate increase “conservative” and well-supported.

Public Works Director Brian Crane said the rate increases, which were reviewed by a citizens committee, are needed to replace aging wells, pipes and other equipment. The biggest increase—a $5-a-month hike for water—is the result of a court ruling that bars utilities from using a tiered water rate system. The tiered rate structure was in response to California’s drought.

Council members Francie Sullivan and Brent Weaver.

Council members Francie Sullivan and Brent Weaver.

In a busy session Tuesday, the council also:

Marijuana moratorium

–Voted 5-0 to enact an immediate 45-day moratorium on the outdoor cultivation, processing, testing, storage and retail use of recreational marijuana. City Attorney Barry DeWalt recommended the moratorium to give the city time to figure how it will regulate the cultivation and sales of pot.

The issue surfaced on Nov. 8 when California voters approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The day after the election, it became legal for adults to possess and use marijuana and to grow up to six plants indoors.

Redding’s moratorium does not apply to authorized medical marijuana users, nor does it prohibit the indoor cultivation of six or fewer plants, DeWalt said.

DeWalt said Prop 64 gives local governments significant local control over the cultivation, manufacture, processing, delivery, storage and retail sale of non-medical marijuana. He said it’s important to exercise that control before the state begins issuing licenses, which is supposed to happen no later than Jan. 1, 2018.

City Manager Kurt Starman said the city will give a more complete presentation on Prop 64 sometime in January in a community forum setting.

A handful of speakers supported the moratorium to allow for a thoughtful review of Redding’s policies, but they also voiced support for the opening of licensed dispensaries. Holly Link said tax proceeds from the pot stores could easily provide Redding with the $1.1 million a year that was anticipated in the recently defeated Measure D sales tax increase.

Brad Thompson said that extra revenue could be used to address Redding’s growing heroin and methamphetamine-related crime issues.

Linda Gisske, a retired Redding police officer, spoke in opposition to retail sales in Redding. She said she has long opposed the legalization of marijuana and, based on a career’s worth of conversations with drug addicts, she considers pot a gateway drug.

Linda Gisske.

Linda Gisske.

DeWalt said the moratorium can be extended up to two years if needed, “but I don’t intend to move that slowly.”

Mayor Brent Weaver said speed isn’t his worry. “I’m less concerned with hurrying it along than I am in getting it right,” he said. “This is a whole new ballgame and we want to make sure we proceed in the best interests of the city,” agreed Sullivan.

Redding family lights it up

–At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Weaver presented the Mayor’s Certificate of Recognition to Redding’s Van Gent family after their dazzling Christmas light display captured a trophy and a $50,000 prize on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” contest.

Mayor Brent Weaver with the Van Gent family.

Mayor Brent Weaver with the Van Gent family.

Michelle Van Gent said the show’s producers contacted the family and asked them to participate and that, win or lose, she thought it would be a good opportunity to bring some positive attention to Redding.

She also expressed thanks for her neighbors’ patience as people arrive nightly in droves to admire the choreographed light display. The Van Gent home is located at 2499 El Verano St.

STEM scholarships

–Voted 5-0 to approve Redding Electric Utility’s “Powering Redding’s Future College Scholarship and Technical School Grant Program.” The program, which will award $50,000 in scholarships to 18 high school seniors, is intended to encourage more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The ultimate goal is to groom north state youth for jobs with Redding’s electric utility, Assistant City Manager Barry Tippin said. Learn more about the scholarship program here.

Village at Tierra Oaks

–With a 4-1 vote, the council denied a request for wastewater service from developers of a proposed 89-unit gated community just north of the city limits.

Marcus Partin had asked the council to extend wastewater treatment services to his 56-acre subdivision and the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the extension, but the council sided with city planners who worried that extending services outside city limits would set a harmful precedent.

Marcus Partin.

Marcus Partin.

Mayor Weaver said he was sympathetic towards the developer, called the Villages at Tierra Oaks a “top-notch project” and praised Partin’s team of engineers, but he said he feared an approval would lead to more and more requests for municipal services outside Redding’s city limits. “There will always be another project just across the street,” he said. The council’s job, he added, is to keep city utilities safe and affordable.

It would be easy and popular to say yes, Councilwoman Winter said, but contributing to Redding’s sprawl looms as a red flag. “This will open up a can of worms,” she said.

Councilwoman Sullivan noted that there are some 2,500 lots in the city limits that are already approved for homes and that Partin’s project could proceed without city sewage service, although that would require construction of a private sewage treatment plant.

Tim MacLean of Sharrah Dunlap Sawyer said most of those lots were approved during the real estate bubble of 2005-2006 and that they are not economically feasible in today’s market. In addition, from a land-use planning perspective, MacLean said taking advantage of Redding’s existing wastewater treatment pipe is much less disruptive than building a treatment plant.

Longtime Tierra Oaks residents Brian Hicks and Don MacDonald both spoke in favor of Partin’s request and said his project would be a welcome asset to the north Redding community.

Councilman Adam McElvain, without commenting on the issue, cast the lone dissenting vote.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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33 Responses

  1. Common Sense says:

    I think it’s good they take a 45 day break to really think this out……It is new territory….and it needs to be well thought out for many reasons….. Let us not forget though…..that if they do say NO in the City of Redding and Shasta County, they WILL be missing out on State Grants….Which could represent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to local programs! Not only would the city of Redding and Shasta county miss out on the sales tax revenues( Millions of Dollars a year) from allowing dispensaries and cultivation facilities there would be NO grants by saying- Not in my city or county!

    The Board shall not make any grants to local governments which have banned the cultivation, including personal cultivation under Section 11362.2(b)(3) of the Health and Safety Code, or retail sale of marijuana or marijuana products pursuant to Section 26200. [Local Limits / Pot Lounges] of the Business and Professions Code or as otherwise provided by law.

    • Rod says:

      Yes CS, most people I have spoken with, misunderstood the facts you’ve clearly presented.

      Turns out….p 64 was as usual, very tricky to fathom.  Most voters didn’t bother with research.

       

      • Rod says:

        SLC, being the progressive community  in Shasta County, leads the way.

        Is there a Mason-Dixon Line drawn differentiating cultural and societal theologies here at home in Shasta County?  No.  Not unless you look for it.

        Loss of state funding should get Julie Winter’s attention.

         

  2. Richard Christoph says:

     

    Jon, it is always good to read your work for corroboration of one’s perceptions, and your article is a very accurate report of last night’s meeting.  I am glad you included the  the statement below , since the inaccurate math in Ms. Link’s otherwise articulate and well-presented position seemed glaring:

    “Holly Link said tax proceeds from the pot stores could easily provide Redding with the $1.1 million a year that was anticipated in the recently defeated Measure D sales tax increase.”

    Measure D was projected to raise $11,000,000 per year, and $111,000,000 over 10 years. Her comparison with potential cannabis tax revenues was therefore in error by a factor of 10.

     

     

    • Rod says:

      Nobody believed D would generate $11 million per year.  I guess you did though.  It’s all fiction based on “fake news”.

      MJ taxes are “real news”,  remember the difference?

       

      • Richard Christoph says:

        Rod,

        My comment above in no way implied either support or opposition to MJ regulation and taxation, nor the merits or demerits of Measure D. It solely suggested that a much more persuasive argument for one’s case can be made with accurate data. Surely you can “remember the difference?”

        • Rod says:

          No, you’re wrong.

          You stated $11 annual taxation from D?  yes

          Jon Lewis didn’t write that nor did Holly Link.  You invented the statistic.  yes

          Holly offered$1.1 annual taxation from MJ taxation?  yes

          I’m glad you can understand what incomprehensible nonsense actually is. yes?

          Sore losers from elections are offset by happy winners such as I.  yes

          Accurate data is best when it’s correct.  yes?

           

  3. ron says:

    Are septic tanks not an option for Tierra Oaks project?

  4. Common Sense says:

    Opinion is the Lowest form of Knowledge!  Linda Gisske’s “Opinion” is just that HER Opinion…..the evidence shows something different….if you want to look at gateway drugs…..look to Alcohol first…..then talk to me…….The Chief himself says that in all his years in Law Enforcement he hasn’t had a Physical Altercation with someone that used Marijuana…..mmmm…..

    As far as Holly Link is concerned….where did she get her “Figure” of $1.1 M  in tax revenues from allowing it?…. If Shasta Lake City took in $420k last year from tax revenues on Marijuana….( Non-Recreational only) and the city of Redding is 10X larger than SLC…….I would say she is pretty Light on her number there…..now granted some of that $420k is from Redding Residents….but that was NON Recreational…..and with Recreational going to be much larger than Medical…..some simple math would say around $4M in Tax Revenues to the City of Redding would be more accurate. That would Not Include Growing Facilities……could be another $3-$5 Million there in a year or two once they got rolling…….so we can see….there is a lot of potential money for Local Police….Local Services etc…..but that is all contingent upon saying YES…..instead of NO……..Let’s base these decisions on things that will benefit the Community on FACTS….Not Opinions!!!……

    • Rod says:

      Yes again CS.  I could post 6 articles refuting Linda Gisske’s opinion by other police veterans.

      What to leave in………what to throw out.

       

       

    • Jim Briggs says:

      100% of all heavy drug users drank water when they were young, ergo water is a gateway drug!

  5. Richard says:

    Rod,

    I referenced Measure D in my first comment solely because that is what Ms. link was comparing cannabis tax revenues with during her presentation. You seem insistent on setting up a straw man to attack rather than focusing on what was actually being stated. I happen to agree with Ms. Link, but believe that her case would have been more persuasive had her data been accurate, and regret that you appear to be either unwilling or incapable of grasping that simple fact.

    • Rod says:

      No, you’re wrong.

      You attacked Holly Link and me by association.  Go back and reread your mean intentions. Yes I took it personal.  That’s what I do when attacked.

      I’ve already been deleted here.  You must be extra special.  Everybody loses when the civil conversion gets flushed.

       

      • Rod says:

        conversation

         

      • Richard says:

        Rod, my reply to your insult accusing me of “stupidity” was deleted as well, so no, I am not “extra special”. But for you to conclude that pointing out a major error in data presentation was an attack on either you or Ms. Link  is both unfortunate and inaccurate.

        • Rod says:

          Yes, your comment was unfortunate and inaccurate.  Try it again and I’ll stop you.  Why not rethink your problem?

           

          • Richard Christoph says:

            Rod,

            You seem to be tilting at windmills. I did not attack you or Ms. Link;  I support legalization, regulation, and taxation of cannabis;  and I thought Ms. Link’s presentation was as I stated initially, “articulate and well-presented.”  The issue raised was one of accuracy of data, and nothing personal was stated nor implied. Your willful misinterpretation, name-calling, and verbal hostility are puzzling.

          • Anita Brady says:

            Rob and Richard- this the season to be jolly, fa la la, Merry Christmas. Now go to your separate corners for 10 min timeout.

          • Please, gentlemen. Use your gentlemen voices here, especially when you disagree.

  6. Richard says:

    Anita,

    You are certainly correct, and exactly what I sat down just now at the computer to do. Life is too short for this incomprehensible nonsense, so I bid all readers and commenters adieu for today, and wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season and New Year.

  7. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    Nice lede Jon! Made me chuckle.

  8. JeffK says:

    About REU, why are they paying the local movie theaters to run  PR commercials before movies if their financial situation dictates a rate hike? For anyone who hasn’t seen it, its not a low production value commercial either. It’s pretty much on par with the PG&E ones we’ve seen lately. What’s the point? It’s not like we have another option or we  haven’t heard of REU before.

    Why are they funding scholarships if their financial situation dictates a rate hike? If the organization somehow found itself in a situation where they had a surplus of money, it would be much more beneficial for the taxpayers and clearly more appropriate as an electric utility to re-invest that money into upgrading infrastructure, subsidizing solar installations, converting other city facilities to solar, automating meter reading, etc.

     

    • K. Beck says:

      I  TOTALLY agree!

      • K. Beck says:

        “Protest ballots were sent to ratepayers who then had 45 days to mail in their objections; ballots that were not returned were counted as “yes” votes.” What B. S.!

        • JeffK says:

          That may be the worse thing about all of this. It’s so blatantly crooked, manipulative, and hard to believe it’s even be legal. The biggest disappointment from all of this, is that they did it when we already have an obvious trust issue between city leadership and citizens that vote. I really hope we can pass a public safety initiative someday but this arrogance from the city is further damaging voter trust.

          • JeffK says:

            Unfortunately I posted this before I read Jon’s reply below. So if I’m understanding it correctly this time, REU doesn’t deserve to be singled out in my criticism. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re still spending money inappropriately but the scholarships are a lot easier swallow without a rate hike driven by REU itself.

    • Jon Lewis says:

      The City Council approved rate increases for sewer, garbage and water services. Redding Electric Utility (REU) did  not seek a rate increase and it doesn’t plan on seeking an increase in 2017.

      A rather detailed report on the rate increases can be found here: http://www.cityofredding.org/home/showdocument?id=9595

       

  9. royt says:

    This stinks The letter I recieved stated apartment dwellers could not vote unless they owned the property.
    How many does that add up to? Why did the send to every apt. in that case I won’t divuldge how many are near me privacy and all that.
    So it was a shame from the get go I and other commenters can agree about wasteing money REU does what they want and always has it’s all smoke and mirrors, while SS pays a 4 dollar increase REU takes it.

  10. Barbara N. says:

    I feel like I have been scammed by the city. I read my ballot and sent it in voting no. No where did I read that failure to respond was a yes vote. I think if that had been pointed out at the beginning more people would have responded. The last hike in rates was suppose to address the the same thing they are asking for now.  Where did that raise in rates go? Where does actually all of the money go? I want to see in my next bill, some actual accountability for my money.

    • Rod says:

      You have been scammed Barbara.  If you can feel the effects, it happened.

      This county and it’s election result tacticians, are educated and do a great job.  A “NO” thought equaled a “yes” vote.  A non-vote became an approval.  Just roll that idea over your own intellect enough times and you’ll appreciate their abilities.

      Sure is a big swamp isn’t it?