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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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City report calls for sewer rate hikes

The price of doing, ahem, business may be going up for Los Altos residents.

An update to the city of Los Altos’ 2005 Sanitary Sewer Master Plan calls for annual service-charge increases that would more than double the average single-family monthly bill by fiscal year 2027.

The updated plan was set for review at Tuesday’s Los Altos City Council meeting, held after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

According to the report – presented Feb. 12 during a council study session – the monthly single-family bill in Los Altos could rise incrementally from its current average of $28.96 to approximately $63.60 per month by 2027. Residents now pay a rate of $3.25 per 100 cubic feet for sewage services.

Gradual increases

The report recommends annual 6 percent increases beginning fiscal year 2014 to fund, in part, a capital improvement program for the city’s aging sewer system. Nearly one-third of the annual service-charge increases would go toward debt service for upgrades to Palo Alto’s aging Regional Water Quality Control Plant. The plant has been in operation since 1934 and serves Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View and Stanford.

The report also suggests updating Los Altos’ geographic information system; expanding its fats, oil and grease control program; and adding one maintenance lead-worker position to meet the city’s maintenance and repair demands.

Reached by the Town Crier, Los Altos Public Works Director Jim Gustafson said that under Proposition 218, the rate

increases are subject to local voter approval after a formal study by the city.

Capital improvements for the more than 50-year-old system would address immediate and long-term structural issues, including corrosion rehabilitation and sewer-pipe replacement, as well as annual maintenance costs over the 15-year period. Representatives from consulting firm Brown and Caldwell specifically noted that 36 reaches (sections of sewer between structures) in the city’s trunk sewer main, which flows to the regional plant in Palo Alto, have moderate to severe corrosion.

“Sewers, if properly designed, should be self-cleaning,” said Gustafson, who attributed the proposed service charge increments to water rate increases, the need to replace aging equipment and rising labor costs. “In reality, there are going to be a few trouble spots that need to be repaired over time. … All cities are under pressure to do capital work on their systems.”

Addressing the report, Gustafson noted that Los Altos residents now pay less on average than some nearby cities. Specifically, the average monthly Los Altos sewer service bill in 2012 – $27.51 – is approximately $10 less than the average monthly bill paid by Milpitas residents. Sunnyvale residents paid on average a $30.84 monthly bill during 2012.

The average monthly bill in Los Altos has dropped considerably since 2009, from $37.96 to its current average of $28.96, according to Gustafson. He attributed the change in part to a 13 percent decrease in water use by residents since 2008 – a trend he expects to continue.

“We have designed and developed a strategy to make the rate increases very gradual,” Gustafson said, noting that replacing the sewer system could cost the city more than $100 million.

In terms of service quality, the report credited the city’s upgraded maintenance. Inspection and repair schedules since 2005 have resulted in an 80 percent reduction in dry weather sanitary sewer overflows, from an average of 15 in 2002 through 2004 to 2.5 overflows during the past two years. It also noted that 93 percent of the city’s system has been inspected since 2005, resulting in 5 percent rated in poor condition.

“We have sewer crews out there every day doing sewer-main flushing that allows the city’s lines to keep passing sewage,” Gustafson said.

He estimates that a five-year rate study will be “locked in” by July. He added that city officials should begin notifying residents about the results of the study in early June.

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