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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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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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