Rio Dell stalls installation of SmartMeters; wastewater rates likely to rise

On Tuesday, Jan. 4, the Rio Dell City Council met to swear in and seat newly elected council members, to examine water bill claim adjustments, consider an installation moratorium on PG&E SmartMeters, and to review service contracts with Winzler & Kelly which included an agreement for services for projects involving the Scotia Annexation and Fireman's Park Improvement.

In addition, the council took up the subject of an Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant with the County of Humboldt for upgrading it heating and cooling systems.

Council members sworn in were Richard L. "Bud" Leonard, Judy Woodall and Melissa Marks. Woodall was named mayor and mayor pro-tem was assigned to Marks that evening.

In minutes taken from a Dec. 7 study session on Wastewater Project no. 2, City Manager Henrickson summarized the time line provided by Winzler & Kelly and remarked that the firm had not adhered to their own schedule. Also, the city manager added that the city can't move forward without a viable funding resource.

Also, talks with the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (shortened to SRF) revealed that some documents were missing from the application process, so the application can't be reviewed until complete, and the review could take up to 60 days. Henrickson asked the council to approve the contract with HDR Engineering, Inc. for scope services, and to authorize only $100,000 for completion of pre-design tasks to finalize the application.

On Jan. 4, a Preliminary Funding Commitment for HDR Engineering would begin design work with that being 50 percent complete by Feb. 15 with third party review. The city is exploring a lump sum contract with HDR.

In addition, the council examined their Scope of Services arrangement with Winzler & Kelly concerning preparation of a streambed alteration agreement for transmission pipeline installation. This concerns part of the treated effluent disposal agreement that goes back to October 2003. A transmission pipeline is planned for the Mozzetti irrigation site, set to cross the southbound Highway 101 Bridge over Eel River. The pipe will exit the bridge structure within the riparian zone of the river above the high water mark, but below the bank. This will necessitate a permit to be submitted to the Calif. Department of Fish and Game. The plan will include re-vegetation.

At the Jan. 4 meeting, the council approved an agreement with Winzler & Kelly for work on the proposed annexation in the amount of $4,995.12. The completed annexation study cost the City of Rio Dell $22,377.62.

Started in October, work on Fireman's Park is going well. In December, revisions were made to the bill, reducing the total cost by $10,800. Wendt Construction was awarded the bid with funds generated from Rio Dell's per capita Grant Program Bond Act of 2002.

The council approved a grant agreement with the County of Humboldt for a $25,000 Energy Efficiency Community Black Grant (EECBG) to replace a heating and cooling system at city hall. The grant requires no matching funds.

To stay in compliance with state and county standards, the council adopted a number of building, residential, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, energy, historical and fire codes.

The council agreed to a temporary moratorium on the installation of PG&E SmartMeters. An ordinance was adopted after an urgency ordinance was presented to the council on Dec. 14. Ordinance no. 270-2011 was approved at the meeting, quoting Public Utilities Code section 2902 that reserves the city's right to supervise and regulate public utilities in matters affecting health, convenience and safety of the general public.

The council approved a contract with HDR Engineering that amounts to a needed wastewater treatment plant upgrade. Called Amendment no. 1 and Notice to Proceed, the contract is not to exceed $689,985 for engineering design of the wastewater facility project no. 2, and approval of the Notice to Proceed with certain tasks, not to exceed $99,874. Along with the upgrade comes a loan to fund it all from RCAC in the amount of $700,000 at a rate of 5.5 percent per annum to year 2012.

With the improvements to wastewater facilities come adjustments in the rate structure, and the City of Rio Dell has a wastewater rate proposal in the works. Two public hearings have been set: Feb. 1 and Feb. 22 at The Rio Dell City Hall, 475 Hilltop Drive in Rio Dell. If approved the plan is to raise rates by March 1 of this year. To protest the rate hike, submit a letter to the City of Rio Dell before Feb. 22. The next meeting of the Rio Dell City Council will be on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m.