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Atwater leaders take next step in protecting water

The topic of conversation in Atwater City Hall largely revolved around water on Monday night’s city council meeting. Throughout the meeting, city leaders discussed the next steps forward in securing Atwater resident’s clean water.

Previously, the Atwater City Council had taken action to ensure that clean drinking water would continue to become a reality for more residents in Atwater by adopting Resolution No. 3130-20. This resolution saw the net proceeds from a recent TCP settlement be used solely for the remediation of TCP from the City of Atwater’s municipal drinking water systems. To further strengthen this objective, the resolution requires a super-majority vote from any future council in order to modify or repeal the action taken Monday night.

With funding now being set aside for the remediation of TCP from the city’s water supply, Atwater’s leaders turned to Chandler Asset Management of San Diego to invest monies from the settlement that are not being utilized at any given time for projects that remove TCP from the city’s drinking water. Don Penner of Chandler Asset Management was on hand during the meeting to further explain that the investments made will be both highly-liquid and aim to be as low-risk as possible.

Penner went on to clarify that these qualities would allow the City of Atwater to continue gain interest from the investment of of the settlement funding not currently in use, while having the money easily available as needed to fund water improvement projects as they become scheduled.

Penner also noted during his presentation that while all investing has risk associated with it, the specific investments considered for the City of Atwater were those that continued to see gains even during the collapse of the housing market in 2008. This is largely due to the portfolios involvement of bonds as opposed to stocks, with bonds being far less volatile.

Finance Director Kellie Jacobs-Hunter elaborated on this saying that while nothing is guaranteed, the yield from the investments Chandler Asset Management can see gains of 1-2 percent, which offered a better gain than other accounts available to the city.

Following his presentation, Mayor Paul Creighton opened the floor up to members of the public who wished to comment on the item. Residents in attendance voiced a notable frustration with the council’s decision to invest the money into an account, saying that they would rather see it remain in the city’s accounts where it could be more readily put to use on water projects as needed. Other concerns put forth during the public comment period include there being any risk associated with the handling of the funds gained from the TCP settlement.

“I’m so frustrated its not even funny…I’m trying to be patient but obviously that is not one of my fortes. Our rates are all going up and I’m still paying for water that I’m not drinking, I’m not bathing in, I’m not cooking in, and I’m not washing my clothes in.” said Atwater resident Marianne Amarant. “Obviously managing funds is not free, and so that is going to take more money out of the money we have, and I just want clean water.”

Addressing these concerns, Mayor Creighton outlined the City of Atwater’s thought process behind investing the settlement funds. “We’ve already implemented things to begin the construction part. We’ve dictated where we are going to build and how were going to build to optimize the construction so the best process is in place and is the fastest,” said Mayor Creighton. “The other thing is you can’t take the full amount of the 43 million dollars and give it to the Public Works Department. It’s physically impossible, so your going to have from zero to 12 million dollars worth of infrastructure that we will be getting into, and so that leaves 30 million dollars that he will put in a quiet savings account somewhere to gain a return on. So were giving it to them to get us a 1, 2, or 3 percent return on 30 million dollars so now were getting that lawsuit money to push out to 50 years.”

As public comment came to a close, the Atwater City Council made a unanimous vote to move forward with the investment of money from the TCP settlement. Also discussed during Monday night’s meeting was a resolution relating to the city’s  Water  Discontinuation  Policy. Members of the council were asked to adopt Resolution No. 3132-20  to  comply  with  the Water Shutoff Protection Act Senate Bill 998, which they did unanimously.

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