“I think that the current city council does not have Dunsmuir residents’ best interests at heart,” said City Council candidate Chris Raine. With the goal of doing a better job representing the citizens, Raine filed candidacy forms in July in the hope of filling one of the full-term council seats.
Raine holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology. Prior to moving to the area, he ran a Thermo-King dealership in Monterey County, which was a multi-million dollar company.
A Dunsmuir resident for 10 years, Raine is the owner of the Dunsmuir Rod Company and Burger Barn.
He has served on the Dunsmuir High School Board of Trustees for four years, including serving as president of the board. He is also a former scout master and former Rotary Club member.
A fly fishing enthusiast, Raine pushed for the city council’s adoption of a resolution allowing for wintertime fishing in Dunsmuir, which he said has prompted an increase in winter tourism.
Raine is also a member of Citizens for a Better Dunsmuir and is one of five Citizens to file candidacy forms for a seat on the council. “All five of us are ready to saddle up and ride hard,” said Raine.
Rate increases
Raine said that if elected, one of his goals will be to rescind the utility rate increases and start the capital improvement project planning process from the beginning.
“It was obvious to me from the start that the Proposition 218 protest was done incompetently,” said Raine. “A huge number of people were extremely frustrated by that process.”
Raine stated that he believes the council rushed into the decision of imposing the utility rate increases without studying all the issues.
He said that he read the Pace Preliminary Engineering Report, which contains information about the upcoming wastewater capital improvement projects, and he became very concerned by the contents. “It looks like a ridiculous spending spree,” he commented, adding that he believes much of the infrastructure project costs are for “fluff.”
The document includes a plan for the city to spend $600,000 in public right-of-way sewer line replacements to reduce Inflow and Infiltration. This will alleviate sewage overflows at the treatment plant.
However, the PER states that sewer laterals on private properties that contribute to I&I would also have to be corrected for the overall project to yield the desired result. The cost, which could be between $1,500 and $8,000 per property if private lateral tests reveal that these properties are I&I contributors, will be borne by the property owner.
Raine said that he is very concerned about how this cost will affect members of the community, and that the city needs to sit down and discuss how private lateral replacements can be accomplished in a way that will not financially devastate low-income residents.
Yet Raine said that he does not believe the I&I problem is as serious as originally communicated to residents when the council was preparing to approve the multi-year rate increases.
To avoid fines, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board has given Dunsmuir until December of 2011 to make certain improvements at the wastewater treatment plant (including alleviating the sewage overflows from the I&I).
Asked if he believes that Dunsmuir is in danger of receiving fines by the water board if it does not meet wastewater discharge and pollution control requirements by December of 2011, Raine answered, “No. The water quality control board works extremely well with the city. They are interested in results; they are not interested in giving us fines.”
Raine also maintains that the city should not seek the $5 million USDA loan to finance high priority infrastructure projects. “I don’t see how the city will meet that debt obligation,” he commented. “It does not make sense to obligate the city to a $5 million note with interest.”
Raine said he would like to talk to other city governments that are experiencing the same problems with aging utilities, and ask them how they are coping in order to obtain ideas about how to respond.
Other goals
Among Raine’s other goals is to put an end to marijuana-related businesses. “The current city council has done Dunsmuir a disservice by branding this city as a place where you can go into the business of marijuana,” stated Raine. “I want to put an end to the commercial business of marijuana in Dunsmuir.”
Regarding business growth, Raine said that enticing people to visit Dunsmuir is the first step in prompting greater Transient Occupancy Tax revenue, and more visitors will ultimately result in more commercial enterprises and population growth.
“I think Dunsmuir is the coolest, funkiest town you can find. All we have to do is get people to visit,” said Raine. He suggests adding more events, such as an annual bicycle race and a whitewater race.
In addition to adding events, Raine notes that small, inexpensive steps can be taken to make the town more appealing to tourists and potential businesses, such as downtown business owners keeping their windows clean and the simple act of decorating downtown with small lights.
Raine said he disagrees with certain other city council candidates that broadband connection and solar energy incentives will boost business development, and he referred to these projects as “very expensive.”
“I’m concerned that we’ve made some false starts. We are going in the wrong direction with identifying how we can make Dunsmuir attractive to potential businesses,” commented Raine.
He continued by stating, “Dunsmuir would have a difficult time supporting any retail business that relies on the local economy.”
Attributing this to the small population, Raine suggests attracting potential businesses that reach out to a broader client base in order to ensure less business turnover.
Addressing wasteful spending on the part of the city government, Raine said that the council must determine the best use of city money, conserve funds, and come to a consensus before making significant expenditures.
He questions the necessity of the $19,000 expenditure for the firm that the city hired to conduct an executive search for the current city manager, and whether monthly city staff water meter reading is the best use of manpower. He suggests that the staff read meters every other month, or ask citizen volunteers to read meters so that staff time is spent more productively.
Overall, Raine said that he will strive to ensure that the city council, staff and the citizens are all part of decision-making processes. “If elected, I am going to do what I always do. I am going to do my best,” he said.