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Getting Back To Basics
LA MESA -- The La Mesa City Council met for almost four hours Tuesday night and, in many ways, it was a night of basic elements: Time, Water, Electricity, Sewer, and Horticulture.
Dr. Sunita Cooke, president of Grossmont College, opened the meeting by distributing a book celebrating her school's 50th Anniversary serving the East County. The books, on sale at the school's book store for about $20 raise money for student scholarships. Cooke invited the community to attend its Oct. 22 Fall Celebration, a gala in which guests are encouraged to come dressed as they were in college. Grossmont is also having a weekend celebration of a new Student Services and Student Center building on April 13-14 as part of a year-long celebration of its first half century.
The management of the Helix Water District brought its road show to the council chambers, presenting their annual budget and explaining the roots of its 6 percent rate increase. Mark Weston, Helix's general manager, explained that imported water costs had risen 16.5 percent, but the district was able to keep the rate increase down because the wet winter had reduced the district's need for imported water this year. Still, populist Councilwoman Ruth Sterling tried gamely to criticize Weston for raising rates when local residents were doing so well at conservation. Weston parried her thrust by explaining that conservation puts pressure on rates to rise in order to cover the fixed personnel, capital and water costs regardless of the amount of water flowing thorugh its pipes. (This theme would return later on the meeting's Sewer Chapter).
The council spent more than a few moments talking about carbon foot prints and petroleum. Mayor Art Madrid asked the council and city staff to consider investigating more aggressive transition of the city's vehicles to electric or other, less carbon-dependent vehicles. The council seemed amenable, though Councilman Ernie Ewin wanted to make sure a full "cost-benefit'' analysis would be conducted to assure the taxpayer funds were being used wisely.
The council grappled with a complaint from a local resident that he was being charged for sewer service even though his house was vacant and could not be contributing to the sewage flow which, presumably, is measured in determining your bill. City staff, borrowing a theme touched on by Weston earlier, explained that the sewage charges are not based on a "per flush'' rate, but rather access to the service in general. In other words, even if you don't use it, you are obligated to contribute to the fixed costs of the system.
Just a few weeks ago, residents near the proposed new housing development along State Road 125, were at loggerheads with the developer over his plan to eliminate a promised sound barrier from the project. Amid the rancor, the council delayed action on the request and encouraged the neighbors and Mike Reynolds, the developer, to get together again and see if they could work out a compromise. After two meetings, it turned out 60 new trees, planted to protect the project from noise, was an acceptable compromise to most in the neighborhood. The council voted unanimously to amend the project plan to eliminate the sound wall and increase the greenery. Virtually everyone went home happy.