Rates go up, or lights go out
By Anne Gilman
The City Council reviewed the draft of
the public arts guidelines and two-year public arts plan for
the city at Tuesday night's meeting.
The Arts Commission and the city have been working toward a public
arts program and policy for the past 10 years. Over the past
year and a half, they have overseen the installation of public
art at Cluff Vista Park, the Arcade Plaza and City Hall.
The art ordinance policy and law will require that developers
contribute 2 percent of their total project development costs
up to the first $1 million, and 1 percent of any excess over
that first million to fund public art on their property. The
developer may also choose to make a contribution to the Public
Art Fund. The certificate of occupancy wouldn't be issued until
the artwork or funds were in place. Developers of low-income
properties are exempt from these fees.
City Analyst Kathy McCann said, "The purpose of the guidelines
is to simplify the process for selecting and installing public
art on new developments. This is common practice in many cities."
The guidelines outline the procedure for obtaining certification
as well as how the art is selected. These guidelines will be
reviewed every two years. Stan
Hakes, formerly Ojai's public works director, who is now responsible
for special projects within the city, presented the street lighting
district engineer's report and assessment for fiscal year 2003-2004,
which indicated a need to increase fees. The Street Lighting
District currently has an annual revenue of $50,000, and about
$96,000 per year is needed to provide funding to pay for essential
safety services: street lighting; energy costs; street tree conservation
and safety maintenance costs; and curb, gutter and sidewalk repair
costs. Property owners within the city limits today pay an average
of $26 per year (equivalent to $2.17 per month) for street lights.
The report recommends raising the typical annual assessment to
$50 per year ($4.16 per month) in order to meet the city's needs.
The Ojai Street Lighting District was established in the late
1970s to pay for street lighting energy and maintenance costs
under provisions of the state of California (Landscaping and
Lighting Act of 1972.) Until 1999, revenues from the district
were used to pay for energy and maintenance costs only. Reserves
were built up for contingency and emergency purposes, as well
as setting aside funds for capital projects. Since 1999, the
city has used district reserve funds to partially pay for a number
of capital projects, including a portion of Cluff Vista Park
sidewalk improvements; construction of handicap ramps, curb and
gutter and drainage improvements; and street tree conservation
and maintenance costs. Most significantly, in spring 2001, the
California Public Utilities Commission allowed for a sizable
increase in electricity rates, especially street lighting rates,
which increased by almost 50 percent. Over the past two years,
reserve money have been used to offset the increased costs for
energy and maintenance. According to the report, Ojai recently
paid $70,000 for Edison maintenance and lighting costs alone.
Hakes said, "Without an increase we will have to turn off
some of the lights for specific periods."
In order for an increase to go through, voters will be sent protest
ballots where they can either agree to the increase by doing
nothing, or oppose the increase by returning the ballot with
a "No." If 50 percent of the property owners in the
assessed area protest, then the increase is denied. There will
be a voluntary public hearing at the City Council meeting on
Feb. 25 to explain the increase before the ballots are sent.
Singer announced that the state legislature had overwhelming
denied Gov. Gray Davis' budget proposal to reduce the vehicle
fee payments to cities and counties. This would have cost Ojai
$167,000 in 2002-2003, and more than $360,000 the following years.
The legislature also opposed the governor's plan to reduce county
spending on libraries, which would have limited hours of service
For the time being, local governments have escaped significant
cuts to local revenues and library services.
Mayor Joe DeVito announced there would be a meeting of the County
Transportation Committee on Monday at Camarillo City Hall to
discuss unmet transit needs of citizens.
The Ojai Valley News
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