A series of questions presented by residents regarding Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD) assessments for Burchell Hill, Bridle Ridge, and The Vineyards developments resulted in over an hour of dialogue at Monday night’s Oakdale City Council meeting. The final result was a 4-1 vote to delay the agenda item until those questions could be answered.
LLMDs are established to provide for maintenance of streetlights, safety lighting, and roadway and park landscaping throughout various portions of the city. Residents in those districts pay property tax assessments to finance those services.
The yearly fee assessed by the city for the 354 Burchell Hill parcels was $522.26, the 963 Bridle Ridge parcels had a fee of $435.20, and the 392 parcels in Vineyard were $520.74.
During public comment portion of the meeting, Burchell Hill residents Linda Johanson and Mike Hancock addressed that even though they were assessed at the maximum amounts allowed, their LLMD was still operating “in the red” with still a $35,000 deficit and their area isn’t getting proper maintenance because of that shortfall.
Both inquired what the city’s plan was to get them out of a deficit while still maintaining the district’s landscaping needs.
Additionally, Hancock said that trees near the area trail, but under PG&E power lines, were hacked down to the stump with no concern for the aesthetics of the trail.
Bridle Ridge resident Charles Shetron said that fees for his area have risen over $100 in the last 10 years and were again rising with this year’s assessment.
Shetron asked about a slurry seal done in the area that was actually completed for over $16,000 under the estimate from last year’s assessment configuration and charges. He said the savings would alone cover the rise in this year’s predication.
Finance Director Albert Avila explained to the council that the savings from the slurry seal was off-set by increased irrigation costs over the last year.
Vineyard resident Theresa Bond criticized the electrical charges for her district, stating that even though their area was the same size as Burchell Hill, their electrical charges were triple by $27,000. She also said their landscaping bill was much higher than any of the other districts.
Avila said the city would review the electrical concern and make adjustments if necessary.
Avila added that some of the Vineyard charges may have been erroneously charged from Bridle Ridge, but he would research it.
Regarding the landscape charges, Avila explained that was for tree replacement of sycamore trees due to their roots causing damage.
“Now you’ve hit a hot button with me,” Bond said. “We’ve been given a problem (trees) and now we’re paying for it.”
Bond went on to explain that the city knew of the problem with the trees when they were planted, that they were prohibited by ordinance, and went ahead and planted them anyway.
City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said he was sensitive to all the residents’ concerns about the increased costs, but when reviewing the figures there were no discrepancies.
He also pointed out that there had been several community meetings about upcoming LLMD fees that were poorly attended.
Councilman Don Petersen said he’d be interested in the answers to the questions.
He also pointed to the irony of the situation.
“You have Burchell Hill saying basically their fees aren’t high enough and they’re in the red, another, Bridle Ridge is the lowest of all and the speaker is still concerned with increased costs, and the Vineyards has too much more service than the others and triple charges compared to the others.”
“I’ve heard too many things tonight that make me wonder if we’re going to approve this tonight,” said Councilman Farrell Jackson. “There are unanswered questions.”
“We can continue this, but my gut feeling is we’re going to stick with it,” said Councilman Mike Brennan.
Whitemyer said he was confident with the assessments and by delaying the matter, city staff was still going to have to deal with more tasks.
“In all honesty, I would like to deal with this now,” Whitemyer said. “I’ve met with everyone (who had questions) already. We’ve gotten and given all the answers we can.”
Whitemyer went on to say that no matter what he explains, he receives back from those he meets with that there shouldn’t be increases.
“It becomes a stalemate,” Whitemyer said.
Jackson made the motion for a vote to delay the item until a later meeting.
The motion passed 4-1 with Councilman Tom Dunlop casting the dissenting vote.
By law the council has to approve the assessments by Aug. 10.