Stormwater treatment proves to be costly endeavor for city

The proper treatment of stormwater, according to new regional requirements, is coming at a high cost to the city of Claremont and others local cities. Claremont officials estimate more than $400,000 will be needed to comply with a new set of stringent guidelines put into place by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality board. And that’s only for starters.

The Claremont City Council Tuesday unanimously approved moving forward with plans to adhere to the water quality board’s new rules—not because of agreement with the stricter standards, but because they believed there was no other choice.

“We either pay the fines and fees [imposed by the water quality board] or we pay the consultants,” said Councilmember Sam Pedroza.

The newly adopted Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit (MS4) further regulates the treatment of stormwater runoff that recedes into the waters of the San Gabriel Valley Watershed, providing for water conservation among many other benefits.

In order to comply with the new unfunded mandates, cities must compile a report detailing its plans to comply with these stricter rules.

Among many reasons, local officials have voiced frustration that all cities are being held to the same strict standards, regardless of their position along the watershed. Claremont—much more upstream resulting in fewer pollutants—must comply in the same way as the beach cities, where most of the pollutants are found. Acting City Engineer Loretta Mustafa realized the financial burden this can have.

She also noted the financial demands of the preliminary consultant work to put the water quality board’s guidelines into place. A consultant was needed to advise as to which water management plan the city should adopt, yet more consultants are needed to draft the different water management plans—both for the San Gabriel Valley Watershed as well as the Santa Ana River Watershed—and a part-time consultant will be needed to manage all the plans. These consultant fees plus preliminary tasks associated with water management for 2013-2014 is estimated at almost $500,000.

To combat the financial impact, the Claremont City Council has directed staff to join forces with the cities of La Verne, Pomona and San Dimas to prepare a group water management plan. It is hoped this joint venture will help save money for all cities involved.

While council members recognized that seeking out grants and other financial help might be worth exploring in the future, they momentarily concede to the water board’s fees—directing staff to draft a notice of the city’s intent to comply—in order to avoid yet more costs. Despite the financial burdens, closer examination of the city’s runoff could provide the opportunity for potential environmental gains, noted Councilmember Joe Lyons.

“We should turn this challenging opportunity into creative solutions,” Mr. Lyons said. “Especially with regards to water and our location, it does offer us opportunities to come up with some out-of-the-box thinking that might serve our long term sustainability needs.”

Discussion on litigation continues

The Claremont City Council discussed ongoing litigation between the city and longtime Village eatery Pizza ‘N Such in closed session prior to the council’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Mike and Sue Verbal, owners of Pizza ‘N Such, recently filed a complaint against the city of Claremont alleging city officials violated an agreement made in regard to more than $150,000 of in-lieu parking fees paid by the Verbals to the city.

The Verbals believe the city misused the money, which was to pay for development of parking for use by customers dining at their restaurant in the Village. Mr. Verbal says he later learned his money was used for the 4-story parking structure just west of the Packing House on First Street in Village West.

City officials, denying any wrongdoing in the case, remain tight lipped over the lawsuit: “We have given our lawyer direction,” Mayor Opanyi Nasiali stated on behalf of the council after returning from closed session.

No other comments were presented from the council, the city’s attorney or members of the audience.  

Club islands future still under review

City officials postponed further review of the Claremont Club neighborhood hardscape, despite an expected city council discussion on Tuesday night. The city council is being tasked with the final decision on whether or not to leave several Club islands on Davenport, Elmhurst and Stanislaus Circle intact.

City Manager Tony Ramos announced the postponement, stating “information received from a law firm” prior to the council meeting required further review. It is unknown when the item will be back on the council’s agenda.

“I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to get the information that I need in order to validate what they are suggesting,” Mr. Ramos said.

—Beth Hartnett


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