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Newport Beach water rates to climb by over $3 a month for typical residents

Newport Beach City Hall and library
Newport Beach water rates are going up starting Jan. 1 and are scheduled to continue to climb annually through 2024.
(File Photo)

Typical residential water rates in Newport Beach will increase by more than $3 a month, or about $40 a year, starting Jan. 1.

The City Council this week approved an increase that will fund higher costs to purchase and pump water, operate the system and cover infrastructure repair and replacement.

Local water rates haven’t increased since 2014, and the system is dipping into its financial reserves, according to city Utilities Director Mark Vukojevic.

Newport’s water system includes about 300 miles of pipeline, 200 million gallons of storage, 26,000 meters, 2,700 fire hydrants and four groundwater wells.

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Based on average monthly residential use of about 7,500 gallons, the typical bill will climb by $3.38 per month, or $40.56 per year. Rates will continue to climb 7.4% annually through 2024.

The council approved the increase Tuesday on a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Kevin Muldoon dissenting without comment.

Campaign reform

The council pressed pause on implementing half of its campaign reforms.

It unanimously agreed to hold off on final approvals for the portion dealing with lobbyist registration in order to gather more public feedback, but went ahead with green-lighting a grace period for fixing violations of municipal campaign contribution limits.

The key modification to contribution limits adopts procedures for donors and recipients to clean up inadvertent or unintentional violations without penalty if they catch the errors within two weeks. Otherwise, candidates could be subject to misdemeanor prosecution by the Orange County district attorney’s office, with conviction leading to removal from office.

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The lobbyist registration rule would require an advocate who receives at least $500 a month or works under a contingency contract to sign up with the Orange County Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission, assuming approval of the county Board of Supervisors. If the supervisors don’t allow Newport to join the county system, lobbyists would register with the city clerk. They also would need to disclose their occupations and clients.

An intentional violation could lead to a fine of up to $5,000. Negligent or unintentional violations could be fined $50 to $200.

Several community members criticized the council’s readiness to approve the two reform ordinances when it took a first look at them Nov. 5. Local political action group Line in the Sand circulated a follow-up letter that garnered about 175 signatures, further taking aim at the ordinances as being weak and asking for more input from residents.

Councilwoman Joy Brenner proposed holding a forum on lobbyist registration in January.

Homeless task force restructuring

The council unanimously decided to thin out the city’s homelessness task force so it can get things done more efficiently.

The move makes the 10-member task force a City Council ad hoc committee, retaining its three council members — Will O’Neill, Joy Brenner and Brad Avery — but dropping the seven resident volunteers, who include experts and officials from local social service, housing and homelessness nonprofits.

O’Neill has said the reconstituted committee would still meet monthly in public, though in a less formal setting where conversational public input is encouraged. The trio will still turn to the seven resident experts as advisors.

The previous structure allowed focused subcommittees to meet privately as desired. But under state open-meetings law, information could be shared among all members only at monthly public meetings, slowing down the overall process, members said.

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