Fairfax delays spending of pandemic funds on water conservation

Fairfax has delayed committing federal funds to a city water conservation project with the Marin Municipal Water District.

In July, the board approved the use of approximately $ 585,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for projects such as the recovery of lost revenue and the expansion of broadband, sewer and d ‘water supply. The money can be used for any proposed project between March 3 and December 31, 2024.

The city plans to use $ 100,000 “to dramatically increase uptake of water conservation strategies,” as much of the county struggles to meet the district’s 40% water reduction target. But the idea drew criticism from some at the September 1 city council meeting.

City Councilor Chance Cutrano said there was an urgent need to act on water conservation.

“I’m just worried that the more we push it back and think about it, the more damage it can do could be mitigated,” he said.

But board member Barbara Coler said she wanted the board to take more time to study the matter.

“I’d rather see us go slow, really dig into what’s eligible before we start spending that money,” she said.

Coler said she was unhappy that a proposal requiring public ventilation was submitted to council after midnight. She said she had not seen the plan and feared being pressured to act quickly, saying she felt pressure from members of Sustainable Fairfax and the city’s climate committee.

Mayor Bruce Ackerman said the city needs to put funds aside at some point, but agreed he was also unhappy with the lack of public comment due to the late hour.

Deputy Mayor Stephanie Hellman said: “I understand it’s a lot of money, I understand that we don’t have all the opportunities found. But she stressed that the proposal was being discussed in San Rafael and had the support of Mayor Kate Colin.

“They turn to Fairfax. They hope Fairfax will take the lead, ”she said.

Coler said: “As far as I know, this council has never discussed that and has given you the authority to go present to San Rafael. I’m really concerned with how other projects have been brought in by you personally where all of a sudden we’re supposed to jump on board. I disagree with the way this process has unfolded.

Colin said she was part of a group of representatives from San Rafael, Fairfax, San Anselmo and Mill Valley working on water policy. She said that a special committee, if approved at the next meeting of the council of mayors and members of the Marin County Council on September 29, would be formed to “focus on scaling up the current programs of short term and potential MMWD or North Marin water conservation. long-term water policies.

Walt Vernon, chairman of the city’s climate committee, said Fairfax’s proposal “ensures compliance” with the regulations of the American Rescue Plan Act. He said the funds can help people who cannot afford to meet the targets set by the city’s climate plan and presented the proposal as “economic assistance”.

“It allows us to have a tool to really invest money to help the less fortunate people in our community and let them participate in solving this climate problem,” said Vernon.

Former mayor Frank Egger warned council to learn more about the water district plans as the state calls on communities to identify future housing.

“I think if you have a good program you will have to ask the Marin Municipal District to offer concessions on where they are going to get their future water,” he said.

Acting city manager Adam Politzer suggested that the proposal be referred to the climate committee, of which Ackerman is a member.

“There is no rush, there is no rush to spend this money,” Politzer said.

Councilmember Renee Goddard said she believes a workshop should be held as soon as possible to gather public comment.

Staff were asked to return to the board with options, including a future public meeting.

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