The Civic Courier

City Council Meeting Recap
January 16, 2024 | City Council Meeting
Note: Audio issues affected the livestream and recording of this meeting.
Council Approves Water Rate Hike; Will Review Wastewater, Stormwater Rates on February 6
Following a lengthy public process, including multiple public meetings, the mailing of more than 18,000 notices, and the final public hearing at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Council Members voted to approve staff's recommendation to increase water rates as proposed in the Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Utility Rate Study 2023. This is the City's first water rate increase since July 1, 2018.

The City's consultant said the vast majority of water customers will see their fixed water rates increase to the following over the next five years.

  • Current: $15.41
  • February 1, 2024: $17.42
  • July 1, 2024: $19.85
  • July 1, 2025: $21.64
  • July 1: 2026: $22.52
  • July 1, 2027: $23.44

Consumption rates will increase to the following over the next five years.

  • Current: $1.34 per cubic foot
  • February 1, 2024: $1.94 per cubic foot
  • July 1, 2024: $2.24 per cubic foot
  • July 1, 2025: $2.44 per cubic foot
  • July 1: 2026: $2.54 per cubic foot
  • July 1, 2027: $2.64 per cubic foot

The consultant also proposed drought rates only in the case of a drought emergency.

The average single family monthly residential water user's bill is currently $36.85 and will increase to $48.46 on February 1.

The five-year water utility rate plan will fund future operating and capital costs, maintain reserve levels and financial metrics that comply with approved fiscal and reserve policies, and maintain current bond ratings to keep current and potential borrowing costs for capital investments low.

The public hearing for proposed wastewater and storm water rate increases was continued until the February 6 City Council meeting.

The City's utilities are faced with many current and future challenges including aging infrastructure, preserving groundwater supply, adapting to changing water and wastewater quality regulations, and increased operational and capital costs. A growing proportion of Hanford's utility infrastructure is aging beyond its expected useful life. For example, the expected useful life of water distribution pipeline is 40 years. Hanford's operational costs are not immune to the impacts of inflation, which increase construction and equipment costs as well. In addition, adequate fund balance must be maintained to maintain applicable bond requirements and sustain operations in event of a fiscal emergency.

Read the full Staff Report.
Former City Council Member Art Brieno
Council Members Settle Lawsuit Alleging Harassment by Former Council Member Art Brieno

Council Members voted to approve a settlement agreement with former City employee Darlene Mata in the amount of $700,000. Mata alleged several complaints against former Council Member Art Brieno, including harassment based on gender, harassment based on actual and/or perceived disability, hostile work environment harassment, invasion of privacy, disclosure of Constitutionally protected privacy interests, improper disclosure of medical information, disclosure of confidential personnel information, retaliation, and false light.
Brieno was censured by the Hanford City Council after an independent investigation found the allegations to be sustained.

The City will be reimbursed by its insurance company for the settlement amount as well as any fees and costs over the $100,000 self-insured retention (deductible), which the City had already reached in the case. When asked during public comment why the City did not take the case to trial, City Attorney Ty Mizote aptly explained the logic in choosing to settle the case.

In this particular case, the evidence weighed heavily in favor of the plaintiff (Mata). Our interpretation was confirmed by the insurance company, and was also confirmed by an independent mediator who assisted the parties in reaching a settlement. The settlement figure is pretty much right in the middle of where the mediator thought it should be. And based upon our research (of) juries in our area, when they looked at this type of case, juries were awarding more than $1 million.

As mentioned in the Staff Report, prior to filing her lawsuit, Mata identified
her estimated damages at approximately $1,433,483.83 and initially indicated a willingness to settle for $1,250,000. Now that the case has been settled, the case against the City and Brieno has been dismissed. Read the settlement agreement.

City Debuts New Logo Design, Tagline

During study session, staff unveiled the City's new, supplementary logo, tagline, icons and associated branded materials. Hanford follows in the footsteps of cities and counties across the state and country using supplemental logos to create professional, consistent and unique identities and connect with residents and visitors. The City's new logo will also assist staff with various marketing efforts, from retail recruitment to tourism and events. Staff made clear that the City's iconic Planning Tomorrows "seal" will continue to be used and seen.

View the full presentation to see all of the logo versions, icons and examples of some branded materials.
Ceremonial check presentation for new fire engine at Station 1
Council Authorizes Purchase of New Fire Engine Using State Funds Secured by Senator Melissa Hurtado

Council Members gave Hanford City Manager Mario Cifuentez authorization to purchase a new Pierce fire engine from Golden State Fire Apparatus. This follows the announcement that the City will receive $1 in state funding for a new fire engine and training tower. State Senator Melissa Hurtado helped secure the funds and celebrated the good news with a ceremonial check presentation at Fire Station 1 last week.

This is the second new fire engine the City is purchasing. City Council approved the purchase of another Pierce engine last July. It will take some time for them to arrive (46-49 months), but once they hit the streets, they’ll transport firefighters faster and safer to incidents. They will also be able to move two current engines into reserve status, replacing reserve engines that have far exceeded their usefulness.
Hanford firefighters are already familiar with and train on Pierce engines, and the City's Fleet Division is also trained to repair Pierce apparatus, including motors, transmissions, and pumps.
Left to right: Vice Mayor Mark Kairis, Battalion Chief Moses Neal, Battalion Chief Matthew Rowe
Members of the Hanford Fire Department
Other Actions, Announcements

  • Ahead of upcoming interviews for City Commission vacancies, Council Members decided to appoint one (1) Council Member to serve along with the Mayor on interview panels for each respective City Commission. A City staff member will also be a non-voting member (advisory) of each panel. After interviewing prospective applicants, the panel will bring back recommendations for the full Council to consider for appointments to the commissions.

  • Deputy City Manager Jason Waters gave Council a presentation about the Historic Overlay Zone and Hanford Municipal Code Chapter 17.48, which provides the process for designating historic buildings, the regulations for modifying buildings, the design criteria for new and existing buildings and establishes the historic resource permit process. Staff is expected to propose changes to the Municipal Code at a future Council meeting.
Next Regular City Council Meeting
February 6, 2024, 7 p.m.