Sebastopol City Council Preview

By Zoë Strickland, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, July 6, 2021

city council preview

Council discussing moving to next stage of water conservation

At its next regular meeting, the Sebastopol City Council is tackling water meters, water conservation and finalizing its budget. The council will meet over Zoom on July 6 at 6 p.m., following a special council meeting at 5 p.m. To view the council agenda, supplemental meetings materials and more, click here.

During a special council meeting at 5 p.m., the city council will meet to interview candidates to fill a vacant seat on the planning commission and to interview a candidate to serve as the citizen liaison to the SCTA/RCPA Climate Action Advisory Committee. During its regular meeting, the council is scheduled to announce who will be filling the positions.

As part of its regular 6 p.m. meeting, the council will consider the following consent calendar items:

  • Approval of city council meeting minutes for June 15, 17 and 21
  • Receipt of information of vacancy on the Sonoma County Library Commission
  • Adoption of resolution approving Capital Improvement Program budget for 2021-22
  • Adoption of resolution authorizing the closure of Main Street during the 2021 Apple Blossom festivities on Sept. 18
  • Adoption of resolution authorizing and approving the city of Sebastopol current pay rates and ranges (salary schedule)

Stage 2 of Water Conservation

In response to the worsening drought, Sebastopol’s city council is discussing increasing its drought measures on Tuesday, determining whether it will bump up to Stage 2 of its water conservation plan from Stage 1 — the main difference being switching from a voluntary 10% reduction in water use to a mandatory 25% reduction in systemwide water use.

Should the council move to Stage 2, the following will be prohibited, per the council agenda:

1. Nonessential uses of water, including the following:

a. Limit outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water by the persons it

serves to no more than two days per week.

b. Refilling or initial filling of a swimming pool.

c. Noncommercial washing of privately owned motor vehicles, trailers, and boats except from a

bucket and except that a hose equipped with a shut-off nozzle may be used to rinse the vehicle.

d. Any use of water from a fire hydrant except for fighting fires or essential construction needs.

2. The city council shall have the authority to prohibit other activities and water uses upon the

recommendation of the city manager that such additional measures are necessary to achieve an overall

system-wide reduction of 25% in water usage.

Though not required through the water stage ordinance, the city is also encouraging residents to do the following:

Fix leaks, including leaky toilets

  • Install high-efficiency toilets, aerators on bathroom faucets, and water-efficient shower heads
  • Take shorter (5 minute) showers
  • Track your water bill and meter to curtail water use
  • Turn off water when brushing teeth or shaving
  • Use dishwashers and washing machines with full loads only
  • Filling up your bathtub halfway or less can save 12 gallons of water per bath
  • Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks, and steps not the hose
  • Plant drought-resistant trees and plants

Budget Talks

After multiple city budget meetings, the Sebastopol City Council is set to review and consider the city’s 2021-22 budget for approval.

During its last budget meeting on July 21, the council ended with the following items still needing to be discussed, per the July 6 council agenda:

  •  Proposal to set aside $50,000 for sewer lateral revolving fund
  • Proposal to engage in municipal finance consultant to evaluate management of assets, review reserve account allocations and examine potential revenue enhancements, with a placeholder cost of $30,000
  • Set aside funds for Map Your Neighborhood and an update to the Emergency operations center Plan, with a placeholder cost of $10,300
  • Proposed $28,000 transfer to pension reserve
  • Proposed funding request from community vitality consultant CoMission with a placeholder of $72,000 (per the agenda, the city met with CoMission to discuss a six-month work plan and a reduced cost of $36,000)
  • Administrative services reorganization, with a cost of $15,000
  • Proposed overall staffing assessment, which involves a two-part workplan. The first phase has an estimated cost of $15,000 and the second phase has an estimated cost of $50,000
  • A reallocation request from the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center to reallocate $12,000 from the Experience Sebastopol website to support its concert series.

At its last meeting, the council passed a resolution that allowed the city to continue working on its budget for 60 days — typically budgets are passed prior to the start of the fiscal year in July — and, if the council has more feedback during its July 6 meeting, it can direct city staff to come back with a revised budget during its July 20 meeting.

Using phones to report individual water use

Lastly, the council will be considering requesting a survey of all water customers that would see if customers support the use of cellular technology to report their water usage to the city’s billing department. The technology would also notify them of a leak at their service connection within 24 hours of the leak.

“City staff regularly receives requests for water usage data from customers who are trying to conserve water and save on water bills. With the current and persistent drought conditions, responsible water customers are interested in a greater level of information than our utility billing can currently provide,” reads the council background on the agenda item. “The city is presently on a bi-monthly water billing cycle. This means that every water meter box is opened, and each water meter is physically read for half of the city each month. Unfortunately, this equates to consumption data information only being updated every two months for each billing account. Our current water consumption bills are not providing the information customers need to monitor their water usage effectively and could potentially allow a water service leak to go undetected and unrepaired for up to two full months.”

If approved, the project would replace around 1,500 of the city’s existing water meters that are over 11 years old and cellular transmitters would be installed on all meters. According to the city, the new technology would allow the public works department to be more efficient and adopt best environmental practices. For water customers, the program would allow them to better see their water usage and costs, set water conservation goals and more.

Since this item is only to discuss sending out a survey about the program, if approved, city staff will return to the council at a future date with the results from the survey.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org