At the last moment, last night (Monday, August 19) I decided to attend a special meeting of Dixon’s city council. This meeting offered presentations by organizations vying to take over supplying water to a good share of Dixon’s homes (including mine).
This all came about when the city council previously voted three to two to dissolve the agreement with the current water supplier, the Dixon Solano Water Authority – operated by the Solano Irrigation District and co-owned with the city of Dixon. That relationship is due to end next year.
I didn’t stay for the whole meeting, leaving around 10 p.m., but by then I could see that with the new city council, there was a very good chance that the new city council will reverse itself and return to the open arms of the Solano Irrigation District (SID).
Sure, the meeting went through all the motions of listening to presentations from four parties that propose to run all or part of the water service: Severn Trent (a national company), Global Water- Fathom (applying to run only the billing and customer relations aspect), the city of Dixon itself, and the Solano Irrigation District (SID).
Now, one might expect that SID was bending to the inevitable and was applying only to operate the water system, while Dixon took over its ownership. I was surprised to learn that SID instead was instead proposing a return to the old relationship – a continuation of the Dixon Solano Water Authority. This was hardly a good response to Dixon’s request for proposals, but it does indicate that SID thinks chances are good for a reversal of the city council’s stance.
Cary Keaten made SID’s pitch and was supported by public comments from two citizens from Dixon. Their reasoning was that
- The Dixon Solano Water Authority’s rates are low when compared to the other water supplier in town (Cal Water).
- The Authority and SID can offer surface water (presumably from Lake Berryessa), should the current well water diminish or have problems.
- All the infrastructure needed is already in place and performing well.
The only other viable presenters were Severn Trent (which serves Winters and some other northern California cities) and has a long track record (they had three presenters at the meeting) and the city of Dixon, represented by Joe Leach, head of Public Works. Leach made a concise presentation, which included buying three vehicles and hiring (if my memory serves me correctly) three new personnel.
My basic question is: Has SID changed its colors? SID’s attributes that caused three council members to vote for dissolution earlier – such as lack of accountability, poor business practices, controversial pricing methods and their purchase of an unnecessarily large headquarters – have those attributes changed? Is SID a new, improved and more responsive organization?
As to my comment that all the presentations may have been window dressing, I feel that Mayor Batchelor wants a return to SID and the Dixon Solano Water Authority. He may have the votes of Steve Bird and Jerry Castanon to support him, especially since they weren’t on the council when the acrimony with SID developed. Where council member Dane Besneatte stands is unclear. Thom Bogue is definitely for the dissolution.
But if the council does vote to undo the dissolution, a lot of work would go to waste. For example, Joe Leach assembled a committee of qualified and presumably impartial outsiders to rate the various applicants to run the water system by evaluating their proposals.
In the end, they gave Severn Trent a score of 48.5, Global Water – Fathom 17.75, SID 25.5, and the city of Dixon 42.5. I was surprised that the city of Dixon rated so highly.
SID received such a low rating because they didn’t directly respond to the city’s request for proposals – they only offered a return to the existing arrangement.
I’m not an expert on Dixon’s water supply, but do feel it’s difficult for SID to change its insular culture (where it has complicated relationships with both cities and farmers) overnight. This is an issue for our city council to decide, and I do hope that they give serious consideration to Severn Trent and the city of Dixon’s proposals. They need to consider if water rates would go up considerably under new operators, as compared to SID’s rates, and so on.
Dixon’s government spends a lot of time on the issues of supplying water and getting rid of it (wastewater). Stay tuned.