Love where you live!
LA MESA – In the months leading up to any election, there is nothing an office holder likes more than a quiet meeting with few cantankerous issues to cause stirs or create divisions in the electorate. If that is the case, Tuesday’s city council meeting would be the Pax La Mesa in what were literally the dog days of summer. Things were so quiet, in fact, the La Mesa leaders had to call in a canine show and the leadership of the Helix Water District to add some element of spice to the proceedings. Helix Water District is currently seeking an 8.8 percent increase in water rates and are rolling out new pricing procedures that will raise rates on heaviest users. The proposal hasn’t sat well with local residents who, perhaps, felt that all the water conservation they are doing – down 21 percent in the last three years alone – should be rewarded, not punished with rate hikes (Public Hearing information here: http://www.hwd.com/news/Meeting071410.pdf). Mark Weston, Helix Water District’s General Manager, addressed the council and explained that the increase is a direct response to the 18 percent increase in the price water wholesalers charge the district. Weston praised residents for their conservation, pointing out that government’s 2020 mandated conservation levels have already been met by we water conscious La Mesans. But he said the fast changing water world, legal fights about the Sacramento Delta water and persistent drought has put pressure on all the water districts. Desalination plants and development of more local water sources, including reclaimed water efforts, are underway but operation costs do not decline with reduced water usage. La Mesa resident Russell Buckley has been leading a chorus of local critics challenging the benefits granted to the Helix Water District employees. Buckley addressed the council last night, repeating his call for a reduction in pension benefits at the Water District. Weston, however, said the pension costs were a relatively small percentage of the district’s cost increases. The cost of water, he said, is driving everything. Weston was followed to the podium by another local institution that can easily distract voters from any electoral issues: San Diego Gas & Electric. But little controversy here. No power line issues or wild fire discussions. Risa Baron, SDG&E energy program’s supervisor, explained to the council that crews were working throughout La Mesa this month to install new smart meters to replace old electric meters. Baron explained the new meters will allow electric customers to have immediate reports on electrical use and will eventually eliminate the need for meter readers. The new meters will also allow the utility to eventually charge more for electricity used during peak hours than they charge for off-peak usage. Baron said the solar users will have new meters put in by the end of 2011 but La Mesa should be fully updated soon. The new meters will also allow electric and gas customers, see their usage on-line including through a partnership with Google, will allow you to see updates on your home computer. “The day you can use your phone to call and turn off your lights at home are not far away,’’ she said.