Water saving at the city

The city of Healdsburg is amplifying their water conservation efforts.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, councilmembers voted 4-0 to join in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership. Councilmember Shaun McCaffery was absent.

The MOU, which will not exceed an $180,000 cost over a nine-year period, will allow the city to participate in several water saving programs as well as receive regional and state water conservation grants.

“The partnership is really focused on developing and managing water conservation programs, really trying to supplement and expand some of the work that we are already doing here,” said Felicia Smith, the city’s utility conservation analyst.

The partnership was established in 2010 through an initial MOU between the Sonoma County Water Agency and the cities of Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, the Town of Windsor, North Marin, Valley of the Moon, and the Marin Municipal Water Districts, collectively known as the “Water Contractors.”

The MOU states that all entities will work together on regional water conservation projects and the Marin Municipal Water District would work collectively to fund $15 million in water conservation work over a 10-year period.

Historically, Healdsburg has managed its own conservation programs within the utility department.

However, with the partnership, the city will be able to participate in a number of water saving programs, including: Efficient Landscaper programs, water education programs and the use of water smart plant labels.

Smith discussed some of the programs the city will benefit from.

The first is the qualified water efficient landscaping program.

“This is a list of contractors that have been certified in water efficient techniques. Oftentimes I will check on Next Door and our residents will be looking for recommendations, so being able to point to this as a resource for water efficient landscaping will be helpful,” Smith said. “If we move forward with our partnership, we also get to take advantage of water smart plant labels. A staffer with the partnership will actually work with our local nurseries and identify and put on labels for any water efficient and native plants.”

Smith also mentioned the garden sense program where through the partnership, master gardeners will come out to residents’ homes for free consultation and discussion on landscaping options with low water use plants.

The MOU will also allow for education efforts on water conservation and storm drain information presentations in third grade classrooms.

Grants that the city could secure through the partnership include the Department of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management grant.

“Stepping into the partnership, we’ll have immediate access to this and Healdsburg is allocated $51,000 and we’ll be able to fund programs that we’re already offering: turf replacement, high efficiency toilets, washing machines and water assessments.”

Membership with the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership costs $20,000 annually for a nine-year period.

It also requires the city to expend $35,000 on local water conservation efforts each year.

“We really felt like the value of the programs that are being offered, as well as the dollar amount of the grant value far exceeds the cost of membership,” Smith said.

During public comment there was no resident input and councilmembers unanimously supported the motion to join the MOU.

Recology Contract

During the Aug. 5 meeting city council also voted 4-0 to extend Recology Sonoma Marin’s contract for waste hauling services.

The council had the options of putting out a Request for Information (RFI) and a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) with other providers, or to engage in a competitive process for considering other waster hauler options.

Since councilmembers said they were happy with the services that Recology committed to in 2011, they decided to stick with a long-term extension of the contract.

There was brief discussion on whether or not they were getting the best rates with Recology.

Garth Schultz with R3 Consulting Group, Inc. said that the city’s rates are much lower compared to similar jurisdictions in the region.

According to Schultz, negotiated, market-based rates are currently 53% higher than Healdsburg’s rates of $15.95 for a 35-gallon waste bin.

Schultz added that going with a different hauler would likely mean rate increases for residents.

Representatives from other local waste haulers such as CNS Waste Solutions and Sonoma County Resource Recovery made their case during public comment to explore other waste hauler options, however, councilmembers ultimately agreed to stick with Recology.

“We have this opportunity on the contract to look at a long-term contract and really looking at the long-term vision for what we want to do with garbage here in Healdsburg,” Mayor David Hagele said of the extension. 

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