Some Clovis parks, street landscapes to get less maintenance

A Clovis park at Holly and Mitchell avenues is in a landscape district where maintenance rate hikes were rejected. It will mean longer intervals between park visits by workers.
A Clovis park at Holly and Mitchell avenues is in a landscape district where maintenance rate hikes were rejected. It will mean longer intervals between park visits by workers. mbenjamin@fresnobee.com

Residents and commercial property owners in a large portion of Clovis have rejected a plan to raise annual rates for the city and its contractors to maintain parks and landscaped areas along streets.

It was the first time in 12 years that the city tried raising rates. Residents in the two areas, which are south of Herndon Avenue, would have paid an additional $2.81 per month, or $33.72 per year. Business property owners would have paid $18.96 more. The amount is added to the annual assessments on property tax bills.

The new rates were to go into effect on July 1.

Mail ballots for this election and one for water rates went out almost simultaneously but operated under different rules for approval. So whereas the water rate changes were supported, the landscaping fees were not in two of three areas.

Rejecting the increase places the Clovis City Council in an unusual position, since rate increases for landscape maintenance districts never have been rejected since they began in 1985. The council will discuss the issue Monday night.

Revenue from the districts pays to maintain landscaping in parks and along streets throughout the city. More than half of Clovis is in a landscape maintenance district. Areas within districts have a steady flow of revenue from residents living in the area, which allows the city and its contractors to provide landscaping services.

Residents paying for the services benefit with well-maintained parks and street landscaping.

“It’s a property value issue,” said Luke Serpa, Clovis public utilities director. “Having nicely landscaped streets and parks benefits everybody. It’s like having a good school district.”

Older areas of the city are paid for through the general fund. Older areas have fewer parks and landscaped areas that often are subject to funding cuts during difficult budget times. The city’s larger regional parks also are maintained through the general fund.

Residents in a third district north of Herndon Avenue supported higher rates by a wide margin. Their annual assessments will rise $13.44, to $49.86, beginning July 1.

The city sent out the ballots in March, about a month after a ballot for water rates went out. Under Proposition 218 – a November 1996 initiative that sets rules for public agencies to raise fees for services – ballots not returned for water rate changes are counted as yes votes, as are actual yes votes. But under the same proposition, a ballot not returned in a landscaping fee election counts as an abstention.

“One of the things we struggle with is getting ballots back,” Serpa said. “It’s just kind of human nature that the people who are most likely to vote feel most strongly about the issue.”

Overall, the two districts will be short of funding: $120,000 for the street and median landscaping program and $54,600 for the parks work.

The city will work with its contractor to revise street and median landscaping services. Overall, nearly two-thirds of the city’s landscaping services are through private contractors. The city provides parks landscaping services in the area south of Herndon, parks manager Eric Aller said.

“We’re going to have to renegotiate with the contractor, and we’re going to move to 10- to 14-day maintenance schedules,” he said. “Right now, we’re probably out there once a week now.”

The city won’t attempt a second election this year, Serpa said, but with City Council direction, another is possible next year. The cost of each election comes from each district’s taxpayer-funded account, he said.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin

If you go

Where: Clovis City Hall, 1033 Fifth St.

When: 6 p.m.