With a full contingent of voters, the Board of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District met Wednesday and unanimously approved a 14 percent increase in service charges for residents, resulting in a monthly fee bump of $1.67, starting in January 2010.
The board, chaired by Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry, includes Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste and a representative from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The designated representative is Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe; in his place Wednesday was his alternate, Fifth District Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
Knabe’s absence from a contentious May 26 meeting was the subject of controversy among those in attendance. Antonovich came to the meeting after Canyon Country Advisory Committee President Alan Ferdman called Knabe’s office to confirm his attendance.
Three people registered their opposition to the increase, which was outlined in detail by Stephen Maguin, general manager of the district. The proposal included the $1.67 increase, which was nearly half of what had been proposed during the May meeting, as well as commensurate hikes for industrial water surcharge rates and an increase in connection fees for new users to $4,500.
Weste expressed concern that the new connection fees be held off until January to accommodate business owners ready to open within the next few months.
“What will this do to those restaurants who have already calculated their opening costs on the original fees?” she asked.
Both she and Ferry said that their priorities were to support new and expanded commerce in the area, mentioning those in the Golden Valley and Westfield shopping centers.
“Our concern is to keep sites full, that’s what pays for public service,” Ferry said. “Mervyn’s is shut down and there’s a mall with no tenants. Look at Creekside Road now, there are four car dealerships closed down, so I have to make sure we can bring people in. I have to bring those people in to fill all this empty leased space because that’s what going to end up generating sales tax which pays for everything we pay for in the council purview.”
Ferry said that people can be angry at the sanitation agency, but the responsibility sits with the City Council.
“The reality is that he (Maguin) doesn’t make the decision whether homes are built. We decide that. Let’s say that 3,000 homes will be built. He has to be prepared for all those stores, restaurants and homes that will flush into the system,” he said. “We’ve always taken the position that if you have lived in Santa Clarita for 25 years, your quality of life shouldn’t change because of the 3,000 new homes
Council hopeful TimBen Boydston was not happy with the vote.
“I’m very disappointed because we’re in the biggest recession since World War II and our Mayor and Councilwoman have voted to raise our taxes,” he said. “Everybody is cutting back on every level of government and as individuals, we’re having to cut back with our families and nonprofits are cutting back, but they can’t say no to higher taxes. The fact is that this is a different kind of year and instead of asking the sanitation district to do more with less, they have taken the easy way out and raised our taxes.”