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Will anything change?

SOUNDING OFF

At the request of Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the

Orange County Transportation Authority is evaluating whether to open

carpool lanes to solo motorists during off-peak hours. This comes at

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a time when Caltrans and OCTA are planning to expand the 241-mile

network of carpool lanes.

Carpool lanes were introduced to attract solo motorists to carpool

and thus reduce air pollution. According to census data between 1990

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and 2000 the percentage of Orange County workers carpooling declined.

Will the OCTA and Caltrans evaluation consider the reduction in

capacity from increased weaving required to reach the carpool lanes?

Will the benefits be measured for all motorists or only those that

carpool? What would the OCTA and Caltrans evaluators do if no more

carpool lanes were to be built? Would an independent evaluation

produce different results? Will anything change?

Contracts for Laguna waste collection and the fire attack goats

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have been with the same contractors for years. Without rebidding, how

would anyone know this is best price for Laguna? What is the method

of evaluation? Will anything change?

To increase the amount of money that is needed to repair the sewer

system, after years of neglect, the city sent out a letter in August

2000 to each property owner describing the proposed increase. Since

50% of the property owners did not protest in writing, the new rate

was added to your property bill. No vote was required.

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This year the rates were raised again and will go up over 20% over

the next two years. Without a change in the fee procedure a single

couple living in a house zoned R2 (two residences) will pay about

$700 in sewer fees per year while a couple in a larger home with 10

bath rooms would pay half as much. When the Council was discussing

raising the sewer fees the first time they seemed to favor sewer

rates based on some form of water usage. Two years later the council

still seems to have the same desire to make sewer charges relate as

close as possible to amount of usage.

A city analysis of water usage fee basis for sewer fees was made

available in April 2. One of the five options presented was “Hire a

consulting firm specializing in water and sewer rate structures to

complete a comprehensive analysis.” Any changes in the existing rate

methodology would take approximately one year to implement we were

told. Will a consulting firm specializing in water and sewer rates be

hired? After three years will anything change?

To a staff request in the proposed budget to purchase a new street

sweeper the City Council directed staff to come back with a more

comprehensive report, including a comparison of vacuum and mechanical

sweepers and an evaluation of the pros and cons of contracting-out

this operation. Firms, including a Laguna firm, that provide sweeping

are listed in the yellow pages. Staff response was a preliminary

study had been done several years ago and contractors were

substantially more expensive than performing the same operation with

city crews. Did the previous study take real bids? Would additional

room at the corporate yard, now used to store a sweeper, benefit the

Festival of Arts and Playhouse? Why didn’t the city take bids from

outside contractors to get real numbers? Will anything change? Just

wondering.

* GARY ALSTOT contributes regularly to the Coastline Pilot

community forum page.


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