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By Roz Rogoff

Proposed fee for clean water

Uploaded: Dec 22, 2011

Contra Costa Clean Water Program sent out a brochure explaining their proposed 2012 Community Clean Water Initiative and Public Hearing Notice. The brochure I received lists my fee at $22 a year for 10 years. I don't know if that's the fee all property owners in the South County pay or if it is based on assessed value or some other criteria.

The Clean Water website lists this Initiative as "subject to California Proposition 218." I recently boned up on Prop 218 after the attacks against the Dublin San Ramon Services' planned policy for formal "protests" as defined in the proposition.

The Clean Water brochure announces a "Public Hearing on February 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, Room 107, 651 Pine Street, Martinez, CA to receive public input." The brochure doesn't mention Prop. 218, but the Public Hearing is scheduled 48 days from my receipt of the announcement. Prop 218 requires a Public Hearing scheduled a minimum 45 days after the announcement.

"At this hearing, the Board of Supervisors . . . will consider all protests against the proposed Clean Water fee. A majority protest exists if written protests are presented by a majority of owners of the identified parcels . . . " The Board will not impose the fee if there is a majority protest against it.

The Board seems very confident, "a majority of property owners [will not submit written protests by the close of the public hearing," since they have already set the date of April 6, 2012 for receipt of the completed ballots on the initiative, which property owners will vote on by mail.

I'm not against clean water. In fact I support clean water. South San Ramon Creek is one of the local creeks which will be protected from trash and pollution by this program. South San Ramon Creek runs through my back yard. Yes my back yard extends at least half-way across the creek.

The plan also proposes to "Capture, clean and use rainwater to irrigate local parks and landscaping, (which) will also decrease impacts of polluted stormwater and urban runoff on our local creeks." Gee I started promoting "rainwater harvesting" two years ago! See the the photo of the connection to my "landscape irrigation" barrels. So I'm all for this too.

What bothers me about this slick brochure is the sly way it complies with Proposition 218 without really notifying anyone what it requires. At least DSRSD is trying to codify its policies about how property owners must submit valid written protests.

Most property owners in Contra Costa County won't take the time to read all the details of what is required for a written protest; so the County Supervisors can be pretty secure they won't receive a majority of valid protests by the close of the Public Hearing on February 7, 2012.

However, the fee could be defeated in the mail-in vote. It depends how serious the "no new taxes" mindset is, but even 1%-er's in Alamo, Blackhawk, and Diablo need clean water.