UPDATED: City Council approves resolution to mandate watering restrictions

water schedule in effect sign on Main St east of pioneer bridge 2018-07-25
COF roadside sign on Main St east of the Pioneer Bridge (July 25, 2018). Photo: My Ferndale News

Ferndale City Council and City staff met at a special meeting tonight to discuss a proposed resolution to implement a mandatory watering restrictions.

According to those in attendance, there appeared to be only one person at the meeting who was not employed by the City or a councilmember. Unable to attend were Cathy Watson and Rebecca Xczar.

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According to an email from City staff after the meeting, implementing watering restrictions was approved unanimously by the 5 councilmembers present.

Further discussion on the topic will continue at the next regular City Council meeting on Monday, August 6th at 6pm at Council Chambers at 5694 2nd Avenue.

With the resolution for mandatory watering restrictions now approved, changes to a section of City code implementing summer voluntary watering schedule will be proposed and discussed during the August 6th meeting that is expected to include penalties for violations. This code section was last changed in 1981.

City staff said in the email, “the penalty structure discussed would be $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third, with water service being shut off on the third offense.”

UPDATE 7/31/18 (based on information from audio recording of meeting)

The meeting convened and Mayor Jon Mutchler delegated running the meeting to Councilmember Greg Hansen (Mayor Pro Tem is Councilmember Cathy Watson but she was unable to attend the meeting) since the Mayor needed to be excused to attend a party at his house.

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Public Works Director Kevin Renz said they had identified a situation that needed to be addressed “sooner than later” He cited Ferndale Municipal Code section 13.04.210 which empowers the City Council to implement mandatory water restrictions and penalties for violations.

The situation, as explained by Renz, can be seen in changing levels of City water system reservoirs. There are two reservoirs, one at Vista Drive and Thornton Street and another behind Eagleridge Elementary School near Thornton Street and Church Road. While the lower reservoir is able to be kept full, the higher reservoir, with a full capacity of 40′, has not been able to be kept full and its level dropped to 30′. This is due to water produced from the two City wells not being able to keep up with demand.

Lower reservoir levels create the potential for not being able to meet City water service customer demand in the event of a sudden hit due to a large firefighting effort or something similar, Renz said.

The Councilmembers discussed the application of penalties as per the 1981 code section and whether to employ a penalty on a first offense. By the end of the meeting, a consensus appeared to be forming for penalties of $50, $100 and $250 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd offenses respectively with a water shutoff occurring on the 3rd offense. It was also noted the penalties required payment at City Hall and would not be added as part of the City utilities billing system.

No penalties can be assessed until the Council can meet and approve the change to the code section during it next regular meeting on August 6th. City staff are using the time before then to educate the community of the pending change from voluntary to mandatory watering restrictions.

While cooler weather is in the short-term weather forecast, we have not arrived at the annual peak utilization point according to Renz.

City Administrator Greg Young said the City had taken steps to be in compliance with the schedule and said the irrigation system at Griffintown Park had been turned off.

Renz said that certain other City water uses such for dust control and irrigating the Phillips 66 Sportsplex use Public Utility District water drawn from the Nooksack River so these uses will not impact the City water system.

Enforcement will be done by the City’s Code Enforcement officer and will be a combination of periodic monitoring and responding to citizen reports of violations.

Young said the City will also be working with commercial large volume water users such as Haggen Food & Pharmacy and Hempler Foods Group to identify ways to reduce their water usage.

Renz said landscaping companies and the Ferndale School District will be contacted to ensure compliance at client and school properties they manage.

The councilmembers attending unanimously approved adopting the resolution for mandatory watering restrictions.

City staff say the fountains at Centennial Riverwalk Park will not be shut off as that is a closed system that recirculates water while running.

 

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