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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- In his Jan 5 report to the City Council, City Manager Alex Nguyen addressed the Infrastructure Use Fee (IUF) court decision and acknowledged different law interpretations.
Aaron Starr and Alicia Percell from the group Moving Oxnard Forward maintained that the money the city received from the Infrastructure Use Fee being transferred into the general fund was unlawful and violated "the California Constitution, particularly Proposition 218."
"Judge Matthew Guasco issued his tentative decision in Starr's favor, ordering the City of Oxnard to immediately repay all of the money siphoned since March 2014 – now over $34 million! – back to the city's three utility enterprises."
Nguyen advised residents to read the judge's ruling.
"The lawsuit goes back to actions taken in the city in 2012, 2013 and 2014," he said. "The suit itself ensued in 2017. Clearly, the city made an error here. The court's ruling laid that out, and it's simple to understand. We are going to have to, according to the judge's ruling, return $34.5 million to our utilities. This ruling issued at the end of Dec is not a final ruling, but we expect the final ruling to come out at the end of this month or in Feb."
The court reserves jurisdiction to address issues in the ruling.
"The city is developing options for the council," he said. "One of them includes a new rate study that addresses the court's concerns. We will be addressing this and taking responsibility for this. I want to say that it's a different scenario when you look at addressing the mistake but also correcting it. It's different from the intention of getting rid of it altogether. That is something the court ruling doesn't tell that we have to do. It doesn't tell us that we have to get rid of the IUF. It's clear that we are able to do it correctly. We will be presenting our options to the council this month when those decisions are made, and I'll be reporting back out to the public."
Nguyen also informed the audience that Covid-19 cases continue to rage in Oxnard.
The situation has been going on for so long that Nguyen lost count of what surge the city currently faces.
Ventura County diligently reports the daily statistics about Covid-19, so he gave a quick snapshot.
"Looking back on July 2, we had 144 new cases reported that day as compared to a few days ago," he said. "Back in July, we had 3,240 total cases in the county. As of New Year's Eve, we had 1,582 new cases that day and 43,545 total cases. Clearly, this pandemic is not going away soon. I understand that you're all hopeful regarding some of the new vaccines being slowly released. There are other vaccines on the way. There is a challenge of logistics, distribution, and timing to get the vaccine out to more people."
While residents wait for a vaccine, Nguyen reminded people about the basic things to stop the spread.
"I want to remind everyone to wear a mask, wash your hands properly and frequently, and keep a physical and social distance away from people who are not members of your household," he said. "That's also if you're going out for essential needs like work or going to the grocery store. Even in the grocery store and places like that, it's very important to keep a physical distance from other shoppers."
He related about going to the grocery store where everyone is masked and six-feet apart in the checkout line. Everywhere else, people are bunched together.
"It's a public service reminder to keep our distance in those types of situations," he said.
For more information about financial help, visit covid19.ca.gov/get-financial-help/.
"Given the recent increase in our 911 calls, I have authorized the fire department to reassign some of our people who can provide paramedic service," Nguyen said. "We're looking at providing $25,000 over the next three months to help get through this surge. I expect we'll be able to get that reimbursed through the Covid relief package."
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