October 20, 2021
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Sebastopol City Council targets drought, approves Capital Improvement Budget

By: Albert Gregory
July 9, 2021

As the impacts of drought heightens in California, water conservation and usage remained a focus at the Sebastopol City Council July 6 meeting over Zoom, where they also adopted the long-awaited Capital Improvement budget. 

With all five city council members in attendance, a unanimous vote approved Stage 2 of the Water Waste Prohibitions and Water Conservation Measures. Keeping in the theme of drought reducing measures, the council also unanimously approved the distribution of a survey asking residents if they support the use of cellular technology to monitor water usage. 

At the council meeting Tuesday, the city council increased its drought measures of its water conservation plan from Stage 1 to Stage 2. Stage one included a voluntary 10 percent reduction in water use whereas Stage 2 ramps up to a mandatory systemwide 25 percent reduction in water use. 

Some restriction include prohibiting nonessential uses of water like limiting outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscaping, filling or refilling of swimming pools, noncommercial washing of vehicles except with a bucket or a hose with a shutoff nozzle, and any use of a fire hydrants except for essential uses like construction or fighting fires. 

Sebastopol has not had to put Stage 2 in place due to drought severity since 2016. 

The city is looking to educate residents first on reducing water usage but will begin to enforce the new regulation with fines up to $500. 

“The one thing that does seem a little bit higher is residential water use. We have to remember our residents were working from home. The commuters weren’t leaving so they were home. Councilman Patrick Slayter brought up a great point; people are trying to grow healthy fresh foods in their own backyards these days. I think if we really educate the residential users… I believe we could make a significant dent in our water use,” said Dante Del Prete, Sebastopol’s public works superintendent. 

The council approved to put a survey in residents water bill over the next two months asking if they support the use of cellular technology to monitor their water usage.

“The water billing department receives multiple calls every month about being able to utilize this type of technology,” Del Prete said. “It’s not hooked up to a meter at your house; it’s way out at the street. It’s a cellphone head that does a small ping of data four times a day. It’s taking the history of the water meter of what’s going on continuously.”

Currently the city manually reads water meters once every two months, and they propose this would give them 24-hour access to that water usage data. Additionally the technology would allow the city, and residents, to monitor for any leaks and respond to them rapidly compared to what now could be a two month wait to fix some undetected leaks, according to the council. 

If residents do want the technology installed, the finances to do so would come out of the city’s budget for energy upgrades, according to Del Prete. 

At Tuesday’s meeting the city council also unanimously adopted the Capital Improvement Budget for 2021-22. The budget includes 29 specific projects for the next five-year cycle, ending in 2026, that include park, arts, and sewage and water projects. The total budget for the five-year period is $19.5 million. 

The city council additionally approved in a 5-0 vote the city of Sebastopol pay rates and ranges for positions like city manager, city clerk, police chief, fire chief and much more. 

Also at the July 6 meeting, the city council unanimously authorized the closure of Main Street for the Apple Blossom Parade on Sept. 18.