SCOTTS VALLEY >> Scotts Valley residents may see higher rates on their wastewater bill this summer — a possible increase of 9% each year through 2025.

The Scotts Valley City Council on Wednesday unanimously advanced a proposal that would raise the monthly rate for wastewater services for a single-family home to $71.54 by July 2025. A single-family home in Scotts Valley has a monthly flat rate of $46.49 for wastewater services. 

A public hearing is scheduled June 16 with opportunity for public comment. If the council approves the rate increase, the change would take effect in July. 

A notice will be mailed to residents this month with instructions on how to submit written comments. If more than 50% of customers submit written protests, then the council cannot increase the rates. 

“The [Scotts Valley] wastewater utility is currently experiencing an operating deficit and faces over $28 million in planned capital improvement projects over the next 10 years,” according to a report by Berkeley-based consultant Bartle Wells Associates. “Annual wastewater rate increases are needed to restore financial sustainability.”

The $28 million figure is a “conservative estimate” and a “placeholder,” City Manager Tina Friend said Wednesday. No decisions have been made on wastewater capital improvement projects, she said. City staff plan to search for grants, she added.

Scotts Valley’s 24-year-old wastewater treatment plant is “delicate” and needs upgrades, Friend said. City leaders expect $3.4 million in treatment plant upgrades and $3.6 million in collection system projects in the next five years. 

The Scotts Valley City Council advanced a proposal to raise wastewater rates for Scotts Valley customers each year for the next five years. Public comment will open soon. (Bartle Wells Associates)

Grants for small businesses

The council on Wednesday also unanimously advanced a city staff proposal for how to spend $395,000 of one-time federal CARES Act money for COVID-19 relief. The council is expected to make a final decision at its April 21 meeting.

The preliminary plan calls for:

  • $250,000 for small business grants up to $10,000.  
  • $93,177 for the Scotts Valley clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County
  • $51,279 for administration, the maximum amount allowed by the federal program

To qualify for the small business grants:

  • A business owner must have a low or moderate income, or a majority of their employees must have low or moderate incomes. Low or moderate income is defined by Santa Cruz County’s area median income
  • The business must have 25 employees or fewer.

The federal funding program is known as the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Program. It is a recent addition to a suite of Community Development Block Grants awarded annually to cities, states and counties aimed to provide housing, improved living conditions and new economic opportunities for people with low or moderate incomes. 

Scotts Valley City Manager Tina Friend on Wednesday proposed a plan to use federal money for a local small business grant program. (Zoom screenshot) 

Scotts Valley leaders plan to hire a consultant for two years to monitor, collect data and report on program spending. Community Development Block Grants are relatively labor intensive and Scotts Valley has not applied in recent years due to short staffing, City Manager Tina Friend said. Friend said city leaders will consider another round of Community Development Block Grant applications for uses that are not COVID-related in the next few months.

In recent days, city leaders received requests for grant consideration from local nonprofit food distributors Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County, Grey Bears and Community Bridges’ Meals on Wheels program. Wednesday, the council decided not to consider these food organizations for this round of federal funding. Council members encouraged those organizations to return in a few months for the next round of applications.

“With a limited number of dollars, we have to focus on what’s best for Scotts Valley,” said Councilmember Randy Johnson. “On everybody’s mind for the last 16-18 months, keeping our city intact is foremost in our thoughts, and I think this goes a long way in helping those businesses that are right on the edge.”

Staff turnover

In other news:

  • Scotts Valley Public Works Director Daryl Jordan will leave his post in the next few days for a job at the City of Gilroy, City Manager Tina Friend announced Wednesday. Scotts Valley will then have two vacant director positions. Tony McFarlane, who served as city finance director, was fired last summer and a new finance director has not been hired.
  • City leaders are interviewing finance director candidates, City Clerk Tracy Ferrara wrote in an email Wednesday to Santa Cruz Local.
  • Soon, city leaders will try for a second time to recruit for the city clerk position. A previous attempt was unsuccessful. Ferrara delayed her retirement until December 2021.
  • At the city staff’s request, the city council on Wednesday also directed city staff to prepare a proposal to raise all city fees by 4%. The city charges fees for things like building permits, parks and recreation classes, child care programs and police response to false security alarms. The increase is meant to reflect inflation and could raise about $50,000 for the city, according to the staff report. The proposal will be considered by the council at its May 5 meeting.

Kara Meyberg Guzman is the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local. ​Prior to Santa Cruz Local, she served as the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s managing editor. She has a biology degree from Stanford University and lives in Santa Cruz.