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Vista officials float ideas on FOG sewer ordinances, lifeline rebates, outreach

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Setting aside the partisanship tonight, the public witnessed elected officials for the City of Vista almost entirely focused on the issues facing Vista: discussing amendments to the sewer ordinance, the lifeline rebate program and last year's suggestion to explore the idea of a new commission "responsible for receiving citizens' concerns."

Robin Putnam, director of the sewer program for Vista, explained that disposal regulations for "FOG" (fats, oils, grease and other insoluble waste discharges) from food service establishments within the city need to be established.

"FOG" (fats, oils, grease)

Currently the Vista Municipal Code and the Buena Sanitation District Sewer Code of Regulations require "food service establishments" to install, operate, and maintain only "approved and adequately sized gravity grease interceptors" to regulate the disposal of "insoluble waste discharges" to the City's and to Buena's sanitary sewer systems.

The proposal from staff would amend Vista and Buena code to allow a less expensive alternative for businesses already in existence which find it impossible to retrofit and install the gravity grease interceptors (GGI): these substantially cheaper alternatives are known as "grease traps," or hydromechanical grease interceptors (HGIs).

"I really think this is an example of how our city is being sensitive to business owners and young people trying to start establishments," said Councilman Dave Cowles.

Councilmember Amanda Rigby stated:

"I think anything that is going to help our businesses, as far as making their life easier with less expense, is a good thing for business which translates into a good thing for our community."

Councilman Cody Campbell also liked the proposal, said it was a common sense approach for business, and John Aguilera, Deputy Mayor for 2014, asked that the proposal be split into two for council voting purposes, which was done.

Lifeline: 538 use low income rebate program

Councilwoman Rigby asked how many people actually use the Lifeline rebate program, meant to help those on low or very low income levels with the sewer charges, and the answer was:

  • Vista - 484
  • Buena - 54

Back on April 23, 2013, staff recalled that City Council Ordinance No. 2013-4, which established rates for sewer service charges for the Vista sewer system, had been introduced and adopted. The vote then had been 4-1, with Councilman Campbell opposed. Campbell also opposed the Buena Sanitation District Ordinance No. 2013-1, establishing rates for sewer service charges for the Buena sewer system. It also passed 4-1.

The staff offered recommendations to the sewer service charges for the Lifeline Rebate Program which were:

(1) reducing the amount of the rebate from 30 percent to 25 percent of the annual sewer service charge; and (2) changing the eligibility standard from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income level of low ($45,150), to the very low level ($28,250).

The program is only available to residential users of Vista Sanitation and Buena Sanitation District who reside in the City of Vista incorporated limits.

Cowles said he was not prepared to change the rebate level percentages on the program. He also wanted to adopt it with the exception of not changing qualifications from low to very low.

Campbell said the sewer rates were already hurting people on fixed incomes, and did not like the changes for that reason.

Staff stated that there really would be "no direct fiscal impact" associated with the change to the sewer ordinances with regard to control and regulation of FOG. On the Lifeline Rebate Program, however, the "anticipated savings from the proposed changes is $4,184, which is a five percent reduction."

Additional savings were not anticipated due to changing the qualifying income level "as most current program participants also qualify under the new lower income level."

Both council votes on PH1 pass.

Public Outreach, new website

News came that in six months the City of Vista will have a new website.

Previously, at the December 10, 2013 City Council meeting, staff was asked by elected officials to "bring back a discussion item to explore the need for a new commission that would be responsible for receiving citizens' concerns."

For discussion purposes, City staff prepared a report which detailed both current and past methods employed by the City "to reach out to the community."

The idea for beginning a new commission was not well-received by council. However, an idea of offering more "face-to-face" time with residents regarding issues they have, seemed a real possibility to council members.

Homeland Security Program grant

Looks like the City of Vista gets a total of $58,539 for the "purchase of a VHF radio repeater system, VHF radios, 800 MHz radios and funding to update the Emergency Operations Plan."

According to the report on this, in order to receive State Homeland Security Program grant funds, the City "must agree by resolution to abide by the California Emergency Management Agency's FY 2013 Grant Assurances."

The mayor thanked one retired, now homeless U.S. Army veteran for his service. He wanted to caution officials about where they would be using the money from Homeland Security. The City Manager stated it would go to the Fire Department for communications equipment.

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