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Norwalk Residents Blast Proposed Sewer Pipe Tax Plan

Sewer Pipe

Sewer Pipe (Photo credit: karen_neoh)

By Brian Hews


A proposed tax by city officials aiming to revamp Norwalk aged sewer pipe system has been met with strong negative reaction from longtime residents and small business owners.


The proposed tax idea was put forward by City Manager Mike Egan in attempt to raise needed funds to upgrade and rebuild the municipality’s underground water pipes, some that have not been replaced in nearly 60 years.


At a Norwalk City Council meeting recently, several residents took to the podium to denounce the tax hike proposal.


Resident Patricia Howe blasted city council members by saying, “everything is going up in price. For a senior citizen who gets only $1300 per month and someone who has traveled around the world in my younger days, this type of tax is just unheard of.”


“I want you do go back to the drawing board and find out where our money went.  If I could, I would get a job, and I would get the money to move out of Norwalk once and for all.  Who is remiss here,” Howe questioned.


Del Nelson, President of the Sycamore Village Association questioned city officials if “this is going to be around for the next 30 years?”


“You (city council members) didn’t plan for this.  People are losing their homes. You need to stop picking on us for your poor performance as elected officials. You need to stop wasting our money,” Nelson said.


Another resident, Don Einson, whose family has lived in Norwalk for 59 years, said “this city doesn’t know how to plan ahead. It should have been an election of the community to decide this tax issue.  The people need to decide this, not the city council.”


Another longtime resident, Robert Burkhart told Mayor Luigi Vernola and three other city council members who were in attendance including Vice Mayor Marcel Rodarte, and City Councilmen Mike Mendez and Leonard Shryock, “I have owned property in Norwalk for the past six decades, before the city was incorporated.  It seems to me that the County sends checks back for our property taxes. I understand that the city has already spent $100,000 just to put this tax idea on the table. We can’t waste this amount of money for some study,” he said.


“Is this mismanagement or misappropriation of funds?” one resident shouted from the audience.


Former Norwalk Mayor Jesse Luera even jumped into the controversial debate that lasted more than 90 minutes, when he said, “The residents of Norwalk are not going to stand for the increase in our taxes.  Why do you let the people decide on this matter? It is important that our elected officials are here for all the people, and to reach out and have us tell u what our concerns are.  The people are getting tired of all these taxes,” Luera said.


New Norwalk resident Jorge Grado told city council members, “I am a new resident of Norwalk.  I just did three years of service for our county in the Middle East, and I know where and how government spends our money.  The house I live in is 60 years old, and I am facing retirement. I haven’t had a raise in five years.”


Kathy Heigths, who said she is a widow and a “person on a fixed income,” said that the city council needs to find more money from other sources.


“We all know that the sewer system needs to be replaced.  Every time a pipe busts in my house it costs me at least $700. Bring this to the vote of the people,” Heigths said.


Resident Dee Brown was more direct in her comments. “I bitch and moan a lot about this city.  I am more concerned about transparency.  The former Treasurer of South Gate (Al Robles) walked off with millions and we don’t want this to happen here in Norwalk.”


City officials pointed out that the nearby city of Maywood has been fined more than $1 million for not maintaining the sewer system and the City of South Pasadena has been fined $900,000 as well. “The purpose of this proposal is to improve the sewer system,” city attorney Steve Dorsey said during the debate. “It is real simple, the sewer system is old and needs to be replaced,” Dorsey pointed out.


Councilman Mike Mendez, said that the “people should decide this.”


“Remember, we did it for the tank farm,” Mendez said.


Mayor Vernola also favored having the community vote on this issue.  “This needs to be decided by the people, not the city staff or city council.”


“You know if we put this to a vote of the community, you know it wouldn’t pass.  If something catastrophic happens to this city Norwalk would go bankrupt.  We were elected to lead,” said Shryock.


“We are doing everything we can to protect this city.  I don’t want to impose fees on our residents.  To put this off for the future is not acceptable.  We had a pipe break at Norwalk Toyota last year that caused us to spend $100,000.  We invested $100,000 to do this study.  I know a lot of you won’t like me after this vote,” Vice Mayor Rodarte said.


One resident shouted from the audience, “We are going to vote you (Rodarte) out of office.”


City officials plan to continue discussing the item later this month.


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