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Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 29, 2011

News Digest

Palo Alto adds fee to garbage bills

Palo Alto's garbage rates are scheduled to rise in the fall for the second year in a row, but this time every residential bill will feel the same impact.

The City Council voted 8-0, with Greg Schmid absent, on Monday (July 25) to approve a $4.62 fee for residential refuse bills, effective Oct. 1. The council adopted the new fee to help close the $3.7 million deficit in the city's refuse fund and to bring the residential and commercial rates a bit closer to parity.

The council also agreed to continue the 6 percent increase it approved to residential bills and the 9 percent increase it approved for commercial bills last September. Both rate hikes were scheduled to expire Sept 30.

The new fee was imposed by the council as an interim measure while staff is considering a more dramatic overhaul to the refuse-rate structure. Palo Alto's refuse fund has been losing money in recent years as more customers switched to smaller trash cans, trimming their garbage bills and the city's revenues. The new rate structure will likely include charges for recycling and composting, services that are currently offered for free.

The flat fee is helping city officials reach their goal of creating more parity between Palo Alto's residential and commercial customers. Preliminary analysis from the Public Works Department has indicated that commercial customers are paying far more than their share for the garbage operation, effectively subsidizing residential customers.

The Finance Committee discussed the new residential fee on July 19 and voted unanimously to support it. In addition to bringing in needed revenues, the new fee would bring the city closer to compliance with Proposition 218, a state law that prohibits refuse rates from exceeding the cost of providing the services.

Palo Alto's airport takeover delayed until 2013

Palo Alto's plan to take over operation of Palo Alto Airport has fallen behind schedule because of vacancies and turnover in the city staff, according to a new report from the city manager's office.

The small but busy airport is currently operated by Santa Clara County under a 50-year lease that is set to expire in July 2017. County officials have indicated that they don't want to renew the lease, prompting the city to consider an early takeover to ensure that the Baylands facility doesn't deteriorate.

In December, the City Council directed staff to hire legal consultants and conduct environmental analysis to begin the process of taking over airport operations from the county. Staff was hoping to complete the takeover by July 2012. A recent business plan by the firm Ralph E. Wiedemann & Associates estimates that the city's profit from the airport could be as high as $16.2 million by 2037 if the takeover occurred in 2012.

That money would have to be reinvested in the airport under federal law.

Palo Alto officials are still considering which business model to adopt for the airport operations. The Wiedemann report identified three options: running the airport with city staff; turning over airport management to fixed-base operations; and hiring a third-party to run the facility.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the takeover of the airport in the fall.

Equipment stolen from classrooms at Paly, Gunn

Someone stole six digital cameras, worth $3,600 altogether, from a Palo Alto High School classroom over the weekend (July 23-24), according to police.

In a separate incident reported to police Friday (July 22), two laptops, valued together at $2,200, were taken from a classroom at Gunn High School.

The Paly burglary occurred sometime between 5:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Monday, police Sgt. Sal Madrigal said. The thief or thieves entered a science building at the school and took six cameras from a file cabinet, he said.

Madrigal said neither the classroom nor the file cabinet was locked, and there was no sign of a break-in. He said it is possible the person responsible is a student, as the school is hosting a summer science camp.

"Everyone has access to the building," Madrigal said.

The cameras were Canon and Nikon models valued at $600 each, Madrigal said.

The Gunn theft occurred between 9 p.m. Thursday (July 21) and 10:30 a.m. Friday (July 22), Madrigal said.

Unknown suspects entered Classroom 25 through an unlocked window and took two MacBook Pros, he said. Madrigal said he did not know whether the classroom is in use this summer, or why the window might have been unlocked.

A janitor working at Gunn Thursday night said he noticed two suspicious persons, a male and a female, on campus, but could not give a description.

— Bay City News Service

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