YUCCA VALLEY — Town Council members unanimously committed the town to providing money to Hi-Desert Water District for the sewer system Thursday, Oct. 4.
The council approved a resolution to provide a “substantial financial contribution to the district, currently anticipated to be approximately $70 million.”
The resolution stipulates the water district will use the money it gets from the town to help lower the cost for property owners in an assessment district to be formed to pay for the wastewater system.
It may also use the money to establish a low-income assistance program or reduce the capital costs of sewer service rates to customers.
In the resolution, Yucca Valley also agrees to pay $4 million to $5 million for road repairs related to the sewer project and use leftover bond proceeds to help with the project.
The resolution states that the district and town will negotiate mechanisms to ensure that “the town contribution will not jeopardize the fiscal integrity of the town’s general fund.”
While the council saw the document as a necessary move in solidifying the town’s commitment to helping with the sewer system, others said it was faulty.
“There is no lease, there’s no agreement. What we have here is an agreement to commit,” Margo Sturges of Yucca Valley said. “The language is ludicrous. This is not an arrangement, it’s a lot of shells and could-bes. This really has no value.”
According to a staff report, a lease agreement between the town and water district cannot be executed until after the sewer design is 30 percent complete.
Sturges wasn’t the only one to find fault.
Richard Harlan, who serves on the Public Advisory Committee of the water district, said the town wasn’t as generous with its fellow public agency as it could have been. Harlan said the town charged interest on taxpayers’ money when it loaned the water district $350,000 in 2008 for the initial planning of the sewer.
“You guys brought up the part of the $350,000 loan … to get this project started. One thing that bothers me is that you guys got interest on this loan, not a lot of money, it was $17,000, but I don’t really believe that any agency in this town should make money off the water district,” Harlan said.
Others, like Richard Ghan, praised the town for its efforts. Ghan said he was “grateful” that town officials were addressing “one of the biggest needs that this town has ever faced.”
Ghan brought up the Measure U tax, saying he endorsed the measure and wouldn’t support a tax that only addressed one of the town’s needs.
Nuaimi emphasizes unmet needs
Just before voting on the resolution, Town Council members nailed down spending priorities for Yucca Valley Tuesday.
The council examined the town’s needs, including financing the sewer system, public safety service levels, infrastructure maintenance and absorbing the financial effects of redevelopment agency dissolution.
“You passed a balanced budget, but you’re not meeting the preventative maintenance needs,” Town Manager Mark Nuaimi told the council, citing a nearly $200 million list of projects that the town must consider.
“Yucca Valley has engaged the community and received extensive feedback from residents about what community services and priorities are important to them,” Nuaimi stated in a news release.