News Update!!: Needles, CA: Wastewater rates, religious organizations, and counting seats debated during Needles Board of Public Utilities Meeting.
A debate over wastewater rates, religious organizations, and counting seats occurred during the Needles Board of Public Utilities Meeting held on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 inside the Needles City Council Chambers in Needles, California.
During Agenda Item #5(A); revised wastewater rates for religious organizations, members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities talked about the counting method used on religious organizations for wastewater rates.
Members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities reviewed 2 options to pick from; Option A: their fair share of the cost to operate the wastewater system (pipes, lift station, treatment plant and disposal of residue) and Option B: 90% of their fair share.
Pastor Lamb from Needles Assembly of God spoke to members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities during public comments talking about how the rates being billed to churches and the method use to come up with their numbers to how much to bill the churches; by the number of seats a church has.
On Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016, members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities approved Resolution No. 8-2-16 BPU amending the policy for how the Religious Organizations are billed, which is as follows; Average Weekly Attendance x EDU Valuation x Factor 3.4673.
Later, on Tuesday, August 9th, 2016, Pastor Lamb from Needles Assembly of God in Needles, California submitted a letter (Pictured Above) to the Mayor of the City of Needles as well as to members of the Needles City Council regarding wastewater rates.
Members of the Needles City Council considered proposed Resolution No. 8-2-16 and Pastor Lamb’s letter on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016 and recommend it be referred back to the Needles Board of Public Utilities for future review.
The Needles City Attorney’s option was that the proposed factor applied to the rate formula exceeded the EDU rate that was publicly noticed.
Well speaking to members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities, Pastor Lamb brought up that if a church has 5 to 10 people in attendance but has 60 seating, why would that church be charged as if the church had every seat filled; that isn’t fair.
Some members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities say that if they did change the rates for his church, we’re subject to a lawsuit.
Pastor Lamb asked if smaller churches that have less then 20 people can remove seats that aren’t being filled.
Members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities say that is up to the church.
After public comments and debate, members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities attempted to vote on the motion to adopt Option B, collecting 90% of what the study said was needed from the religious organizations, but the vote failed and no further motions were made.
According to Cheryl K. Sallis at the City of Needles, since the Needles City Attorney opined that the Needles Board of Public Utilities’ previous action was invalid, it would revert to the original action – Option A – .03 per seat.
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According to Needles City Manager Rick Daniels, members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities decided to leave the rates as they were adopted back in May 2016.
Members of the Needles Board of Public Utilities tried to develop a 3rd option, but it was determined to be inconsistent with what was in the public notice upon which the rates were adopted.
Their fair share was deemed as their contribution of effluent amount and the cost to collect treat and dispose in relation to that for all of the other classifications in the community (single family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, schools, government buildings, schools, etc.).
Churches – like hotels, motels, and restaurants – come in varying sizes and tend to generate effluent based upon the number of users in the building.
The consultant suggested a way to compare churches and bill in accord with the relative amount of effluent generated.
In restaurants seats were chosen, for gas stations we used pumps, hotels we used rooms, and for churches we used seats.
It has to be something measurable and countable.
The alternative was to have charged them all the same which didn’t seem fair because they are all unique as to size.
Instead of seats, the Needles Public Utility Authority (N.P.U.A.) could have used building size or parking spaces.
In the past, some bills were determined by the amount of water used.
The Needles Public Utility Authority (N.P.U.A.) looked at continuing that method of billing, but a number of deficiencies were observed; how much of the water used is for outdoor landscape use versus indoor use which all ends up in the wastewater system via drains, sinks, or toilets.
Again, each building is different depending upon the outdoor landscaping each might have.
They may have the same indoor use that ends up in the wastewater system, but their total use can vary broadly.
The Needles City Attorney advised that all customers had to be treated fairly with the same method of rate calculation, therefore there could not be some customers using flow based system while others used an equivalent dwelling unit methodology.
Overall, the EDU approach was considered superior. No system is perfect at estimating wastewater flow.
Water and electricity are measured by meters. Using meters to measure sewer flow is unrealistic and too costly to effectively implement.
For more information regarding the Needles Board of Public Utilities Meetings, please contact Cheryl K. Sallis at the City of Needles at: 1 (760) 326-2113 Ext. 315.