THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Vision Based Solutions & Proposals

 
 
 

Benicia's Water Crisis: Paying the price, and more than our fair share

 

First, let’s lighten the immediate load.  Let’s switch to a monthly billing cycle and move sewer and waste water to the property tax bill like most communities. Those on fixed incomes will be able to budget better.  I know that this doesn’t “reduce” rates, but it makes them easier to manage when it comes time to pay monthly bills. I would also advocate for fair and considerate payment plans for those who are behind in their water bills. The City should be lenient and reasonable in their demands for collection, especially when it comes to basic necessities. 

Secondly, Benicia residents should not have to pay more than their fair share of raw water pipeline costs. Those who use the water, should pay for how much they use. For instance, Valero uses 60% of our raw water and pays only $1 million dollars.  That amount should be raised to $3-$4 million and those funds should be used to stabilize rates and fix infrastructure.  A large part of the city’s infrastructure budget is a result of the need for replacement of the primary water line from Cordelia to Benicia.  Since Valero uses 60% of the raw water they should be responsible for a significant portion of the cost of the infrastructure to bring that water into Benicia. While under contract, citing a sense of fairness, Valero should make a good faith agreement  to increase their contribution to raw water costs and apply these funds to water rate stabilization and infrastructure.

Contingent on Measure R passing, funds that are generated by Measure C that were identified for road repair could be diverted to water infrastructure. Every bit counts. 

Finally, Look for cleaner water sources which require less water plant treatment. 

We don't have a water supply problem. We have a water waste problem.

Thinking big and boldly, we should start a community discussion on two possible opportunities: Graywater waste reduction and brackish water desalination.

Did you know our wastewater treatment plant (WWP) produces and discharges almost 2 million gallons of treated, useable water into the bay every single day? How many gardens could that sustain? How many acres of residential landscaping could be saved from the effects of drought and strict water conservation?  As the drought rages on, I ask the question: what can the City do with more than 2 million gallons of non-potable graywater coming out of the wastewater treatment plant? But how do we get it from the plant, to our homes?

While the wasted water isn't potable, it is useable. The water can be allocated for several uses including irrigation of City landscaping and private residential landscaping.  Could we build several holding tanks at the WWP that residents can fill containers with usable irrigation water?  How about routing the water into large tank water trucks that can deliver the water to residents for use on their property? Imagine having a water reservoir at your home, in your yard, filled on a regular basis that you can use at your disposal to water your yards, lawns and gardens. Many of us have let these home aspects and curb appeal wither and die, affecting our home values. Regular water delivery or resident pick-up may solve that.

Desalination: "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink."

Brackish water desalination technology isn’t just a Benicia solution; we could be one of the pioneers in this innovation. Could we create a regional plant serving nearby communities thereby sharing construction and operating costs? Several communities in California are in development of Desalination plants. If the City of Antioch has been able to break ground for construction, surely Benicia is capable. And yes, before we could even consider moving forward we must understand the environmental impact a desalination facility could have on the bays ecosystem. Grants must be explored to fund this endeavor.

Benicia should also provide our residents with enhanced methods of rainwater capture and in-home recapture through greywater reuse.  This active recapture of precious water can be a good source of plant irrigation.  For residents wanting to install these systems, the City should be of service. We must look to capture our storm water releases that flow into the bay—can that treated water be reused as a gray water source? The key is using less, recapturing more and thinking about every gallon of water the City system processes.

From a City perspective, cut down significantly on parks and building landscaped lawns and increase California native plants suitable for our climate.  Use mulch and drought resistant plants to replace the tremendous amount of grass areas that are visible but not used for trails or recreational land.  

Joint Purchasing Pacts: The more you buy, the cheaper the price

Unless we increase funds, there isn't a lot we can do to increase the rate of road repair. However, Joint Purchasing Pacts with neighboring communities to purchase materials and other items that can reduce costs making the repairs more accessible. Benicia, Vallejo, Napa and Fairfield are all suffering from poor road conditions. Let's work together to negotiate material costs at a bulk price to help reduce repair costs. In addition, a joint pact should approach Valero, which produces Asphalt here in Benicia for that bulk purchasing discount. Purchasing asphalt locally keeps those jobs in Benicia.

Fourthly, consider increasing the sewer and water connection fees for developers.  With potential increases in construction, sewer and water connections can be a potential revenue source.  

Benicia soccer deserves our respect, our support and their own all-weather turf field

I proposed we create a dedicated all weather turf soccer field for our soccer community that will bring in revenue through tournament play, advanced soccer play, and traveling adult leagues.  A dedicated field will not require watering to grow, fertilizer to patch, lay fallow for months in order to restore itself.  As a former owner and operator of a Premier Soccer facility and Club, I know soccer. I understand the impact that having a year-round soccer field can have on a community.  An all weather, league grade field would bring in revenue boosting competitions and tourism. Some competitions last several days while attendees and participants seek to stay locally overnight and patronize our restaurants and businesses.

 

I have spoken to many members of our current and active soccer community.  It’s clear that they desire a dedicated field...and they deserve one. 

 

A multi-purpose field proposed by an incumbent seeking re-election is not based on a fundamental understanding of the sport and the special requirements that the largest sports group in our community has been asking for. Benicia soccer has been pleading for these accommodations for the last decade. Why has it taken this long to get the attention of local leaders? As Councilmember, I'll use my extensive background and expertise to help guide and develop plans for an all-weather soccer field.

The Arts: Keeping Benicia's legacy, enterprise & uniqueness thriving

Benicia has a long history of being a vibrant artist haven and of supporting its arts and culture community.  This community is integral to the rich quality of  life, its central identity,  part of the basic fabric of our Small-Town and provides the city with economic vitality.

 

We should expand our commitment to the many non-profit organizations in our community that provide opportunity for expression, creativity, and commercial success.  Arts and Performance is a big part of what makes Benicia so special and unique.  We must continue our very modest investment in maintaining Benicia’s leadership in arts and culture. 

What better way to celebrate local art than through small town fairs and festivals? As Councilmember, I will advocate for opportunities for Benicia to host a variety of new events and festivals. The path to hold community events should be affordable, and easy to navigate. More discussions should be had regarding outdoor theater, community festivals, holiday traditions, etc. For the past few months, I've been talking to a couple of locals who have wanted to bring an annual Kite Festival to Benicia. For years, Berkeley hosted an amazing Kite Festival but lost their ability to continue. Benicia's First Street Green and Waterfront parks are the perfect venue for such an event. And Benicia's breeze is the perfect co-host!