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Oxnard defying voters, fighting to raise wastewater rates

The city of Oxnard is working to overturn what voters overwhelmingly repealed on Election Day.

Last year the city raised wastewater rates by 87% and that led to a ballot measure to fight the increase. Even though the vote to repeal was successful, Oxnard is fighting it. And as a result, it looks like rates won’t be changing anytime soon.

“The City Council voted to request a stay for a delay of the rate repeal,” says Public Works Director Daniel Rydberg. “Which means a delay of implementation of the rates.”

Instead of going with the voters and repealing the wastewater hikes as stated in Measure M, the city is now going to court. The council and City Attorney, Steve Fischer, believes setting rates at that lower level would be against the law.

“The council is required to set rates at a level that we can pay our debt obligations and operate and maintain a system and protect public health and safety,” Fischer said. “The voters can’t decide to do something at a level that the council wouldn’t be allowed under the law.”

Oxnard officials say the wastewater increase is necessary, and has been for sometime, to offset the cost of maintaining an aging infrastructure.

While the city stands firm that repealing the recent wastewater rate increase is not an option, a newly elected city council member is the one who got Measure M on the ballot.

Aaron Starr says the city should be looking at itself and not its citizens to fund, what he calls, financial mismanagement.

“The city is suing me over this and I intend to defend the lawsuit and defend the residents of Oxnard against the cities actions,” Starr said. “We will prevail in the end in make sure the rates are reasonable.”

No court date has been set. But the city says it would be committed to resisting the level of the rates, but they can’t stay where they are.

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