After an hour of queens and proclamations, as Inyo County Supervisor Jeff Griffiths put it, the Bishop City Council got down to its agenda items on Nov. 25. During public comment Council had been introduced to the new Miss City of Bishop, Chelsea Smart, and new Miss Teen City of Bishop, Callie Rose Kruse (queens), as well as read and approved several proclamations regarding National American Indian Heritage Month, Home Health Care Week, and Hospice and Palliative Care Week.
When it came to agenda items, green was a keyword. First Council considered adopting a resolution to establish support for Senate Bill 405 (Senator Alex Padilla) that would prohibit grocery stores, large retailers, convenience stores, and food marts from providing free single-use plastic bags to consumers, and require those stores to have reusable bags available for purchase.
“I particularly love the idea,” said Mayor Laura Smith. “You see plastic bags everywhere.” The resolution, as she explained, was a way for the Council to offer support to Padilla.
Councilmember David Stottlemyre, however, wasn’t completely convinced. “In theory, it’s a great idea, but the state [California] is using this to create another layer of government. I don’t like excessive layers of government being added.”
Councilmember Keith Glidewell was likewise not ready to fully support the bill until local businesses had been surveyed.
“I have concerns backing this without finding out what the local businesses think,” Glidewell said. “How will it affect their businesses?”
Council decided to table the item until after the first of the year, when more information could be brought to the table.
Next, in the name of being “green” and saving the City money, Council unanimously approved going out to bid for the purchase of five HP Envy tablets for Council use.
Glidewell, who had led the charge on this item, explained that not only would it reduce paper for the City, but it would also reduce staff time as Executive Secretary/Assistant Town Clerk Robin Picken must currently spend time packing the Council’s binders for each meeting.
“It’s goodbye binders and hello tablets,” Glidewell said. “This is a good, solid purchase that we’ll make use of for 3-5 years.”
Lastly, Council heard from Forrest Cross, Vice Chair of the Bishop Water and Sewer Commission, regarding the Commission’s 2013 water and sewer fee recommendations.
Even though, as Cross stated, “No one ever wants to see more money coming out of their pockets,” the proposed fee increases from the Commission were moderate. According to the consultant’s report, “Our recommendation to the City would be to determine a fixed percentage between 2% and 5% and increase the rates by that flat percentage each year.”
The Commission had agreed upon 2% after some discussion, with several members not believing that was enough. Nonetheless, the numbers presented to Council were based on that percentage. There were also some adjustments made for certain types of users, such as Laundromats, which caused those users to see a reduction in fees.
Gas stations would see the biggest reduction in water fees based on previous miscalculations for those users. As Cross explained, one of Bishop’s problems is that is has not had water meters in the past. Over the past few years some meters have been installed to see how the users are divvyed up, but data is still being collected and perfected.
According to the Commission’s tables for the water and sewer increases, for a single family residence, water rates would stay the same at $34 in 2014, and sewer rates will go up $.70 from $29.30 to $30.
As Mayor Smith pointed out, “the rates can only be set at what it costs to run the water and sewer service.”
The proposed fee structure, if approved, would be in place for the next five years.
Council accepted the Commission report. Public hearings for the proposed rate changes will be forthcoming.