Mayor Ashley Swearengin has a high-profile ally in her pursuit of a $429 million upgrade to Fresno’s water system -- the city’s blue collar union.
Marina Magdaleno, business representative for International Union of Operating Engineers AFL-CIO/Stationary Engineers Local 39, expressed her members’ strong support for the Mayor’s project in a Feb. 23 letter to the City Council. Copies were sent to Swearengin, City Manager Bruce Rudd and Public Utilities Director Thomas Esqueda.
It is a powerful letter.
The letter has been made part of the public record. The council on Thursday evening will vote on a new rate plan.
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Here is Magdaleno’s letter:
“Dear City Council:
“I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Fresno City Council for encouraging the Administration to aggressively pursue financial support from the State of California for the City’s Recharge Fresno Water Plan. I was pleased to learn that this financial support will save the ratepayers of Fresno, and Local 39 employees that live in Fresno, over $100 million during the next 30 years, and that the City will apply for an additional $150 million to further reduce water costs in our community. This helps all of us.
“The employees of Local 39 and the City of Fresno are charged with the responsibility of delivering clean, safe and reliable water service to every residence, business, industry, and institution in the City’s 110-square-mile service area. Rest assured that we take this public health and safety responsibility very seriously as we work on behalf of the community to ensure water delivery 24/7/365 - rain or shine, day or night, hot or cold.
“Our members work with the City’s existing groundwater pumping system every day. They see first-hand that this system is at risk due to more than 100 years of overdraft and contamination. We know that our current reliance on groundwater is not sustainable. We also recognize that there is no greater responsibility in the water profession than the proper and safe operation of a water treatment plant, and the production of of drinking water for a community. Our members currently (and proudly) operate the City’s Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility and T3 Water Treatment Facility, and we will be responsible for operating the new Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility.
“Accordingly, we are eager to work with the City’s Administration to deliver the needed and overdue infrastructure to bring additional surface water supply to the City on time, within budget, and at the highest possible quality.
“In addition to ensuring production of safe drinking water, the employees of Local 39 are responsible for inspecting, repairing, and replacing aging and often failing water system assets on a daily basis. We bring first-hand knowledge of how fragile the system’s aging assets are, and we support the Administration’s plan to invest $82 million to repair old infrastructure. The members of Local 39 are also in the best position to assist the Administration with developing a plan to prioritize system assets for repair, rehabilitation, and replacement. We believe it will be critically important for our members and the Administration to work in partnership to repair and replace the City’s aging assets before they fail, rather than after when costly and potentially catastrophic service interruptions disrupt the community and create unnecessary public health and safety risks. Again, we know from our collective and in-depth experiences that investment for asset repair, rehabilitation and replacement is essential.
“Many Local 39 members and their families live, work, learn, and play in the City of Fresno -- and none of that is possible without water. We understand clearly that the Administration’s proposed water plan will place a great deal more responsibility on Local 39 to ensure that safe, clean water is available at all times and without interruption. We welcome that challenge and look forward to working with the Administration to demonstrate that we can deliver what we promise.
“In closing, I and the members of Local 39 look forward to the City Council adopting the proposed capital plan and rate plan on February 26, 2015, and to the Administration submitting additional financial assistance applications to fund other Recharge Fresno projects. I want to emphasize that the employees of Local 39 are very proud of the public health and safety responsibilities we perform for the many and diverse residents, businesses, industries, and institutions in the City of Fresno -- and we look forward to expanding those responsibilities as part of the Administration’s water plan. Given our members’ role in operating the community’s groundwater system and surface water treatment facilities, we are prepared to start work immediately and in partnership with the Administration to improve the long-term safety, reliability, and resiliency of the City’s water supply system for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.
“If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me at ….
“Sincerely, Marina Magdaleno Business Representative IUOE, Stationary Engineers Local 39”