The Kings County Grand Jury has called for a little more transparency from the City of Corcoran when it comes to imposing water rate increases. The issue came to the grand jury’s attention after the city attempted to impose an 18 percent emergency water rate increase during a special meeting earlier this year.
The grand jury found that the special meeting notification was legally posted during which the proposal was addressed. However, the jury recommended that such issues of high interest to the public be addressed during regularly slated meetings to increase the opportunity for public participation.
According to the grand jury, special meetings held in January at 5 p.m. and in March at 12:45 p.m. were scheduled at times when it made it difficult for the public to attend.
In its recommendation, the grand jury noted that the city and the council should take great care in considering meeting times and dates to best accommodate the citizens they serve.
The grand jury also found that the council, on advice of legal counsel, did not conduct a public hearing required by Proposition 218 before implementing the emergency water rate increase of eight percent earlier this year. City staff initially recommended an 18 percent increase; however, the council chose to lower that rate, while taking $300,000 from its water fund reserve, in order to meet bond debt obligations.
The bond requirement covers costs for repayment for construction of the city’s water filtration plant. That facility was built to remove arsenic from local water sources, following a change in state and federal law for allowable arsenic levels in drinking water.
The city is currently in the process of scheduling a Proposition 218 public hearing to address additional water rate increses. That hearing requires 45 days’ notice to the public and should be held in late September. A new water rate study had already been conducted.