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Council meet: Sunshine, sewers and a special tax

Submitted by on 1, January 4, 2011 – 12:02 amNo Comment

Alameda’s new City Council is expected to decide tonight whether to put a special tax on the ballot to pay for emergency medical services provided by Alameda County.

The vote is part of a packed agenda which includes a proposal from the new Water Emergency Transportation Authority to change some ferry fares, the presentation of proposed sunshine and campaign finance ordinances and a discussion about possible changes to Alameda’s private sewer lateral ordinance that could mean additional fixes for property owners. The council will also talk about qualities they’d like to see in a new city manager, an effort that will kick off the city’s search process for that post.

The special tax would be levied to pay the city’s annual bill for trauma, ambulance and other emergency medical services provided by the county, a levy every other city in the county already pays. If approved by the council tonight, the city would also begin to work toward being formally annexed into the county’s emergency medical services district.

Alameda declined to join the district when it was formed in 1982, and declined again in 1997 when the county was required by state law to put the district’s annual assessment before voters as a special tax. Even so, the city was under contract with the county until 2005 to receive the services, but the contract lapsed for five years as the county and Alameda, which has its own ambulance service, fought over how much the city should pay.

County officials told the city they would eliminate the Alameda Fire Department’s exclusive right to provide ambulance service here if a new contract was not in place by Monday. The council voted to negotiate and execute a contract on December 7.

The council is set to consider whether to put the tax matter before voters in a June ballot, which would cost an estimated $280,000; a mail-only ballot in May that would cost $125,000; or a November 2011 ballot, which would come at nominal cost to the city.

This year, the city is expecting to pay its $857,831 assessment for services out of its reserves. A tax would need the assent of two-thirds of voters to pass.

The council is also slated to hear a presentation from WETA, which is considering raising rates to AT&T Park by a quarter to cover increased landing fees levied by the Port of San Francisco. The ferry agency would also lower rates for senior and disabled travelers.

Also on the agenda are presentations of proposed open government and campaign finance reform ordinances, and potential changes to the city’s sewer lateral rules that could require property owners to test their laterals if they perform remodels valued at $90,000 or more which include a plumbing fixture.

The council meets at 7 p.m. today at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. The meeting will also be broadcast on cable channel 15.

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