Smartmeters on the way
Council hears of SCE plans
It was, for the most part, strictly business for the Porterville City Council Tuesday once the proclamations and a short presentation from Southern California Edison were completed.
The presentation, given by SCE Region Manager Cal Rossi, was made to make the council aware that the company would soon begin meter upgrades to the SmartConnect meter.
Council members Brian Ward and Greg Shelton were concerned once they saw that the company planned to charge opt-out fees to those customers who did not want the upgrade. The fees would go toward retaining meter readers to read those meters. The SmartConnect meters would not need to be manually read by Edison staff, and so Edison was expecting that a number of people in those positions would soon be laid off.
Ward also felt it was unfair that Edison seemed to benefit from these meters far more than their customers, as customers who did opt-in to the program would not receive any sort of discount on service because of the meter. Rossi responded that the savings for the customer would come in the form of the fact that the meter would allow customer’s to view their usage in real time, and so usage and the costs related to it, could be better governed by the customer.
Rossi also pointed out other advantages to the meters, the points of which are laid out on Edison’s web site at www.sce.com/info/smartconnect/facts/facts.htm.
The public hearing on approving a conditional use permit for the erection of a 60-foot high communications tower at the site of the Southern California Gas Company’s Porterville center, near the airport, drew few comments.
Representatives of Southern California Gas explained that in light of improvements being made to their pipelines and the safety issues that might arise from that, ensuring proper communication between regional centers was extremely important for the company. The engineer for the project was also on hand to update the plans from a tower to a pole on which a communications dish would be mounted.
The public meeting was closed and Council Member Greg Shelton asked city staff whether any of the “neighbors were complaining”, to see if any written comments had been received by the city before the hearing. As the city could not report any negative responses to the project, the council passed the proposed resolution for the permit unanimously.
Grand Jury Response
Resolutions concerning Measure H were made, the first of which was to pass the response letter to the grand jury report on Measure H, which city staff drafted after citizen-generated complaint prompted the grand jury to investigate the way in which Measure H funds were being used. The jury’s findings concluded that “the ballot measure did not provide the public with an accurate description of the provisions of Measure ‘H’.”
The response of the council to the draft letter was positive, although Vice Mayor Pete McCracken felt it was “too soft” a response. The draft letter states that the city agrees with every jury finding, and has already implemented some of the suggestions.
The council discussed the fact that the letter could have pointed out that had voters paid less attention to the 75-word ballot measure description, and had instead read the full text of the ballot measure, that voters would have had a better understanding of the ballot measure, what it would fund and why. However, the council generally agreed on the feeling that the campaign as it was run at the time had been comprehensive enough to let voters know of the intention of the measure.
As the Impartial Analysis provided with the measure did expand on that 75-word description to say the measure was to fund police, fire and other public safety facilities, the city felt the voters understood that capitol projects weren’t just confined to the new fire station which was outlined in the description, but could be extended to projects like creating, as Mayor Virginia Gurrola pointed out, a facility that would house fire and police services.
Council Member Brian Ward spoke to the “Sunset Clause” issue that was raised, stating there was never meant to be an end to the measure, as it is difficult to estimate future funding needs for public safety.
Shelton raised questions on a item to allow Public Works Director Baldomero Rodriguez to spend $50,000 to purchase of either shares in the Pioneer Water Company or to purchase water to recharge current “retention facilities” and the Porter Slough.
Noting that water is becoming a commodity which was in demand, Shelton said he wanted to give the recommendation that if possible, the city try to purchase as many shares in PWC as it could, and suggested the city send out letters to share holders asking if they would be interested in selling.
Lollis responded that letters of this manner which had been sent out in the past had actually generated interest from share holders in selling to the city, which had prompted the request for the authorization.
Hearing this, a movement was made on the authorization proposal as it was written and the council passed the item unanimously.