Would an independent Zone 7 water agency result in higher or lower rates for residents?
Zone 7 representatives say that separating from Alameda County would remove a layer of administration resulting in lower rates. But Supervisor Scott Haggerty said Tuesday night that this would not necessarily be the case.
In the past, Alameda County has turned down an enhanced retirement benefit for Zone 7, Haggerty told the several dozen people who attended the meeting.
"If Zone 7 separates and gives the enhanced retirement benefit, I'm not sure the rates wouldn't be raised," he added.
Zone 7 provides water to more than 200,000 people in the Dougherty Valley, Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin, as well as managing local run-off and groundwater. It imports 80 percent of the water from the South Bay Aqueduct, which is run by the state.
The seven-member Zone 7 board of directors is elected by Alameda County residents; separating from the county would enable Dougherty Valley residents to run for the board and vote for its members, Zone 7 General Manager Jill Duerig said in her presentation.
"Through its retailer, Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD), Zone 7 serves over 15,000 residents in Dougherty Valley, in south San Ramon within Contra Costa County," Duerig said. "With separation, they would no longer be disenfranchised."
DSRSD Board Member Georgeen Vonheeder Leopold read a letter supporting Zone 7 separating from the county. It noted that in addition to creating equality for Dougherty Valley, it would eliminate the duplication of services.
Jill Ray of Contra Costa Supervisor Candace Andersen's office also spoke to express Andersen's concern that Dougherty Valley residents currently do not have a say with Zone 7.
Supervisors Miley and Haggerty also had opinions about how the separation should be done.
"The county doesn't want it to happen piecemeal," Miley said. "We want it to be comprehensive, thorough and complete. Fiscal implications must be resolved."
Zone 7, which already sets its own salaries, has reported that raising employee contributions for higher benefits in order to keep employer contributions stable was discussed at a meeting in 2007 but no more discussions have taken place.
"I've never seen if you create another bureaucracy that rates wouldn't go up," Haggerty said.
At Tuesday's meeting, which was held at the County Public Works Agency in Dublin to get input from the public, Haggerty and Supervisor Nate Miley expressed concerns about coordinating flood control between Zone 7 and the rest of Alameda County.
Zone 7 participates in the Bay Area Flood Protection Agencies Association, and it represents the Flood Protection/Stormwater Management Functional Area for the entire Bay Area.
"The mission is to provide an effective flood control system for the Livermore-Amador Valley in a fiscally responsible, innovative, proactive and environmentally sensitive manner," Zone 7 General Manager Jill Duerig said in her presentation. "We try to leverage the money we have by working with others."
"LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) is the appropriate venue for this to be vetted," he added. "I want this to go to LAFCO. Any attempt to go by LAFCO, I would oppose."
He noted that the county has had other entities separate from it, such as Alameda County Medical Center.
"I know it isn't going to happen quickly," he said. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. I want to make sure the county is maintaining its integrity as well."
"I'm supportive of this separation but want to see it done right," Haggerty said. "I want to see a comprehensive plan."
He noted that giving Dougherty Valley a say in the running of Zone 7 does not guarantee that one of its residents will be elected to a seat on the board.
Miley suggested a meeting between Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Duerig said after the meeting that because Zone 7 has existed since 1957 and has always worked incrementally toward separation, that she had not thought it needed to start with LAFCO but if the supervisors are more comfortable with that route, she was amenable.