Water Rates to Increase, Council Waits for 49ers to Reimburse City for Employee Overtime
By David Alexander

Share |

The Santa Clara City Council has opted to hold off on paying City employees more than $40,000 in overtime back pay for the New Year’s Eve football game until the San Francisco 49ers makes good on its promise to cover the cost.

The issue came up Tuesday night at the City Council/Stadium Authority meeting, where Mayor Lisa Gillmor prompted the Council to place a contingency on approving paying the non-police employees who worked the game.

City Manager Rajeev Batra told the Council that Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium operations at Levi’s Stadium, made a “verbal commitment” to pay the wages after already agreeing to pay for overtime for Santa Clara police officers who provided the game’s security. However, the team has yet to reimburse the City for the money it paid the officers, although Ruth Shikada, Assistant City Manager, noted that the payment is “not late.”

“Let’s turn that verbal commitment into a check,” Gillmor said.

The Council decided not to pay the City employees until the 49ers pay the balance it owes the City for both police and non-police overtime wages.

Fisical Year-End Report

A fiscal year-end report also drew heavy fire from the Council. Gillmor took issue again with the 49ers Stadium Management Company (ManCo) for failing to provide insights into why security costs for the stadium increased 25 percent last year, something Police Chief Mike Sellers said he was “not prepared to answer,” saying only that pay increases across the county and changes in security practices could have contributed.

In the wake of roughly 6,500-passenger influx into Valley Transit Authority (VTA) trains following last week’s U2 concert, City Attorney Brian Doyle said members of VTA reached out to him about instituting a surcharge for non-NFL events, but he was unsure whether VTA also reached out to ManCo.

Council Member Teresa O’Neill suggested the surcharge–which is intended to offset the burden to the VTA public transit system–should be tacked onto parking to dissuade event goers from driving.

No representative from ManCo was present at the meeting.

Council mainstay Scott Lane, a San Jose resident, called the relationship between the City and the team “dysfunctional” and compared the City Council to triage doctors.

“It is like they just keep flipping us off every time we turn around,” said Deborah Bress, a fellow Council mainstay.

However, not all the news from the report was bad. Stadium revenues were $1,000 over estimate and operating costs were roughly $200,000 less than expected. The City banked just under $3.4 million into the general fund from the stadium.

Utility Rates

The Council also approved raising water and trash rates.

A new fee schedule increasing potable water rates by 15 percent, recycled water rates by 9 percent and trash removal rates by 1.7 percent will go into effect at the beginning of July.

Gary Welling, director of sewers and utilities, said decreased water use, the need for infrastructure maintenance by the City, and capital improvement projects by wholesale agencies that sell Santa Clara its recycled water all contributed to the need for the water rate increase. The garbage rate increase is a cost-of-living increase.

“Even though we are using less water, we are having to pay more for a glass of water,” said Council Member O’Neill. “Nobody likes to see rate increases, but there are reasons for the rates ... unfortunately, nothing is free these days.”

Bress took issue with how the rate increase was divided among groundwater users and recycled water users, noting that while the increase for recycled water is higher, the utility opted to shift that cost to groundwater customers with a rate disproportionate to their market-rate increase.

She said the rate increase will “penalize those who use potable water,” adding that she was “disgusted” that the Council was not “sticking up for citizens.”

“We have a department that is wasting our money,” she said.

Lane said part of the problem is that the water district is not maintaining the creeks properly, diminishing the creeks’ flow because of overgrowth. The Council should “put their feet to the fire,” he said.

“If we are paying more for [water] and we can’t control the costs, at least have them do their jobs,” he said.

To block the garbage, storm water and drinking water utility increases, the number of people voicing opposition would have had to be more than half the 26,589 customers served by those utilities. City Clerk Rod Diridon said 61 customers protested the drinking water increase, 56 protested the increased garbage rate and 52 protested the storm water increase.

The Council unanimously passed all three increases. Council Member Patricia Mahan was absent.

The next City Council meeting will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 6 in the Council Chambers, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.