Water rates a top concern for Burbank residents

Burbank residents set the City Council agenda this week at three town hall meetings the council hosted to hear from constituents in a more casual setting outside City Hall.

Their chief complaint? Steep water bills.

Residents frustrated about the high cost of water — despite their conservation efforts — discovered they weren’t the only ones.

The city, which gets most of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, has also faced its own rate hikes for the imports, said Mayor Dave Golonski.

And neither Burbank nor its residents are likely to catch a break any time soon, officials said.

“Water is going to cost you more as we deal with reliability in the Delta,” Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power, said in referring to the Sacramento River Delta, an important supply source for Southern California.

Council members — who reported that they've also personally been hit with steeper bills — encouraged residents to continue to conserve.

To facilitate conservation, the utility offers a water system auditing program that checks for leaks in your home, said Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy.

“Leaks can be a hidden problem in terms of your water bill,” she said.

Meanwhile, a resident concerned about hill erosion asked the council to consider an ordinance penalizing residents who don’t maintain their landscapes.

“I would not have bought my home if I knew this was going to happen,” the Skyline Drive resident said, adding that neighbors have told her they stopped watering the hills because of water-price hikes.

Residents also worried they’d be stuck with the financial burden of Burbank’s compliance with a state law on renewable energy — which upped the city’s electrical bill by $17.8 million this fiscal year — as well as speeding drivers near schools and in residential neighborhoods.

Another resident, Bob Olson, asked if the city could install countdown crossing signs at more traffic intersections — particularly those around schools.

“I thought that might pull some risk for students,” Olson said.

Officials are working on securing grant funding for traffic signal improvements, which also requires state approval, said Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford.

“That’s what’s holding us up,” Teaford said, noting that grant funds are worth the wait. “It helps us out.”

A downtown Burbank resident who complained about a local hookah bar — and smoke wafting through her apartment complex — asked the City Council to revisit the city’s smoking policies.

“We are suffering,” she said, adding that if she could afford to move, she would.

Gabel-Luddy suggested putting the smoking issue on the agenda for a later date.

“It would be worth it to have a discussion on the outdoor smoking situation in the downtown area,” she said.

Council members also encouraged citizens to participate in the city’s budget process by completing a survey on the city’s website through which they can rank budget priorities.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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