Tuesday Jul 03 2012
City, community center face off over sewer bill
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
Sierra Vista owes $31,422, according to city manager
Sierra Vista Community Center board members are in disagreement with the City of Colfax as to how much the center owes the city for its sewer usage. In a letter to the SVCC dated June 12, City Manager Bruce Kranz said that as of May 31, Sierra Vista is in arrears by $31,422.76, which includes penalties and interest and garbage fees. Kranz?s letter asks Sierra Vista to ?submit for the City?s consideration a payment plan that will allow Sierra Vista to bring its arrearages current within a reasonable period of time.? But the Sierra Vista board disputes that amount. B.J. Armando, board president, said the board is ?pretty much unclear on the math on that. It looks like it includes garbage too. Our garbage bill has always been current. We?re a little confused on the numbers.? Armando said the city is billing Sierra Vista at a rate ?seven times more than the amount of sewage that we generate. We?re saying that?s not fair.? Kranz?s letter followed a ruling in Placer County Superior Court on May 25 that upheld the determination Kranz ?made in early 2010 that Sierra Vista must pay sewer service charges based on 6.9 dwelling units.? Armando and other Sierra Vista supporters appeared before the city council during the public comment portion of the June 27 council meeting to state their case. ?We just wanted them to know that we don?t think it?s fair that the community center paid for a service we don?t receive,? Armando said in an interview last week. Connie Heilaman ? the community center?s first president and a current board member ? also pleaded Sierra Vista?s position at the council meeting. In an email quoting her comments to the council, Heilaman said the city has erroneously designated Sierra Vista in the ?Halls, Lodges & Auditoriums? category. Heilaman said, ?This is an inappropriate designation based on our nonprofit, noncommercial community center; it is clearly the wrong designation because the bill does not reflect our actual use.? Kranz, who was not present at the June 27 council meeting, said Sierra Vista falls under the ?Auditorium? portion of the category, not ?Lodges.? He said the community center was originally evaluated at 14.3 Equivalent Dwelling Units, or EDUs. It was revaluated in November 2009 by the city engineer, who reduced it to 6.9 EDUs. In her email of comments to the council, Heilaman said: ?I appeal to your fairness in changing the category of ?lodge? to create a new one for a nonprofit Community Center that would allow us an all-volunteer nonprofit group (except for a part-time manager caretaker) to continue to expand our programs for our city residents or we may have to close our doors, which I think you would agree would be a great loss to Colfax.? Sierra Vista board member Beth Miller, in an email of comments she made to the city council, said that as a ?gesture of good faith,? from 2009 to 2010, the community center has paid the city about $600 monthly, totaling over $6,000. ?It seems like you are deciding our sewer rate, but (in) actuality you are deciding whether we will or will not have a community center,? Miller said. Kranz said, ?Churches pay, high schools pay, elementary schools pay. Sierra Vista is the only one that has chosen to fight us on that. ? If we allow them to not pay, then why wouldn?t we allow anyone else who doesn?t want to pay their bills to not pay?? The city has ?done everything we possibly can? for Sierra Vista, Kranz said. ?Right now I?m just waiting for them to come in with a reasonable payment plan.? Kranz said it is up to the council to decide what steps the city will take next.