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Page 6 March 3, 2016 EL SEGUNDO HERALD ‘Monster’ Gas Company Bills Investigated Marie Fellhauer from page 3 Douglass M O R T U A R Y “Our Family Serving Yours Since 1954” B U R I A L - C R E M A T I O N - W O R L D W I D E T R A N S F E R P E T M E M O R I A L P R O D U C T S 500 EAST IMPERIAL AVENUE EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA 90245 Dave Atkinson from page 3 2016 EL SEGUNDO ELECTIONS Telephone (310) 640-9325 • Fax (310) 640-0778 • FD658 Residents and Business Owners El Segundo’s Election is on April, 12, 2016 Have any questions for your City Council candidates? Send them to us at management@heraldpublications.com We will not be able to publish all submissions. City of El Segundo is now hiring for part-time positions Drivers starting at $15.93/hour Lifeguards starting at $12.45/hour Visit www.elsegundo.org and click on City Jobs, Part-Time Opportunities for more information or call (310) 524-2700 By Rob McCarthy A preliminary investigation found no irregularities with Southern Gas Company bills that tripled home-heating costs in December and January and created suspicions that a massive gas leak near Porter Ranch was already costing customers. Mark Pocta, spokesman for the Office of Ratepayer Advocate in San Francisco, told the Herald Publications that chilly weather and higher gas usage were behind the run-up in household utility bills. His office reviewed customer bills after receiving complaints from SoCal Gas households about higher-than-normal winter bills. “We’ve looked at SoCal Gas rates and their rates really have not changed significantly over the past approximately five months since September,” Pocta said. Public speculation was that the Aliso Canyon storage leak was being charged already to gas customers. Another theory was the Gas Co. raised rates but didn’t announce it. The Ratepayer Advocate Office said neither was true, and that its initial investigation had a simpler explanation. “We’ve talked to a number of people about this issue, and we think that the issue is likely related to cold weather during the winter, so the bills have been higher.” The Ratepayer Advocate is a unit of the Public Utilities Commission. The office advocates for customer and environmental protections while working to obtain the lowest rate for public utility service. This winter has been the coldest since 2011, the Gas Co. said after the public outcry over bills for December and January. Customers in winter use up to seven times more gas for home heating, explained in a newsletter sent out last week. The Los Angeles City Council in mid-January called on the commission to investigate So- Cal Gas bills for winter heating. Councilman Mitch Englander said his $60 monthly bill jumped to $200 in January. He questioned whether the smart meters used by The Gas Co. were accurate. The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the complaints by Southern Californians who were shocked to see their home-heating bills three times the norm to start 2016, said spokesman Christopher Chow. The commission’s early findings found chilly weather Los Angeles. “It may take years, but building rapport with leaders in Sacramento is our best hope of rectifying this huge inadequacy and bring much-needed revenues to help the City grow,” Fellhauer said. Looking back at the achievements of her first term, Fellhauer said the Council has a consistent record of fiscally responsible decisions— including a successful tax resolution agreement with Chevron she helped negotiate. She also listed her leadership role in building a strong and active Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) to increase local business attraction; the opening of The Point shopping center and elevon creative media campus; approval of the future Raytheon development that will provide revenues to the City as well as a new road to ease traffic in the southeast quadrant; future hotel openings; TopGolf coming to town; construction of new headquarters for the Lakers; El Segundo’s 2015 Most Business-Friendly City recognition from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC); and the agreement with Wiseburn to provide a world-class aquatics facility in town. “I have also always honored community members’ requests to meet regarding their concerns or ideas,” Fellhauer added. Fellhauer (nee Caravello) went through the local school system and graduated from El Segundo High. A little known fact, she was an arm-wrestling champ during her Eagles’ days and competed at the state level. She then attended El Camino College before a brief departure to study at Humboldt State where she earned a degree in Mathematics. She remembered her late mother—an El Segundo Citizen of the Year in the early ‘70s--volunteering to take blood pressure readings for seniors at the Joslyn Center. “My mother ingrained in me the spirit of giving back to the community as well as the importance of self-reliance,” Fellhauer noted, adding that she still fondly recalls the quaint Downtown of her childhood and when there was little development and mostly fields on the east side of town. Though admitting that she misses businesses like RB Drugs, the old bowling alley and the Cornet Five and Dime store, she said she is excited about what the future holds with the aforementioned new commercial projects and businesses on the horizon. “Four years ago, our city faced several critical issues that could have negatively impacted our longterm future, but we worked hard to ensure El Segundo remained sustainable,” Fellhauer said. Prior to joining the Council, Fellhauer was on the Planning Commission for seven years. She is an Ed! Foundation Superintendent’s Roundtable member, Kiwanian, and Public Safety Policy Committee Member for the League of California Cities. As ICA President, main focuses include public safety and education issues that affect 44 independent municipalities. “Having a leadership position on a regional level is a huge benefit to El Segundo because so much can be accomplished through collaboration,” Fellhauer said. Now that she has a young son, Fellhauer explained that she is more committed than ever to ensure the future fiscal prosperity of the City. “I was born here, raised here and I’ll die here,” she said. “I am a proud product of El Segundo. The community feel is what’s most special about this place and must be preserved. I know when I go for a walk, guaranteed I’ll wave to someone I know…” • ally for Chevrolet. He learned every aspect of the business including management, training, marketing, negotiation, and long-term planning— experience he believes makes him uniquely qualified to serve on the City Council. “As a local businessman, I have specialized in taking over failing enterprises and bringing them to profitability while providing stable jobs to the community,” Atkinson said. Looking at his priorities, Atkinson singled out the need to continue to work with the El Segundo School Board to support and solidify the local education system in order to maintain high transfer rates to colleges and universities, tout El Segundo’s Most Business-Friendly City status to retain and attract businesses, keep City spending under control while investing in infrastructure, and grow reserves while maintaining a balanced budget. When he retired in 2002, then-Mayor Mike Gordon asked Atkinson to join the Senior Citizen Housing Corporation Board. “During my tenure, we were able to change operations at Park Vista, finally get us out of the red, and make long-needed repairs,” Atkinson said. He spent four years on the Capital Improvement Project Advisory Committee (CIPAC) during which time the group developed a point system for prioritizing infrastructure items for the City Council to consider for potential funding. Atkinson also coached Little League baseball in town and assisted the Police Department in bringing the annual car show to Main Street. Listing key accomplishments of his first Council term, Atkinson pointed to the 17-year financial agreement forged with Chevron that brought more than $5 million in new annual revenues to the general fund; arrangement for El Segundo to be a host city for the 2015 Special Olympic World Games; and grand openings of The Point and elevon. He added that a number of projects are on the way after Council approvals--including several new hotels under construction, the Richmond Street upgrade this spring, future development of Raytheon’s South Campus, the TopGolf and Lakers’ facilities, and El Segundo/Wiseburn Aquatics Center. “As a member of the Aquatics Committee, I am particularly proud of the deal the City worked out with Wiseburn to build a new, world-class competition pool that will serve the needs of our student athletes as well as the entire community,” Atkinson said. “The facility will be a major draw for El Segundo and pay for itself over time.” The most important issue the community faces this go-around, in Atkinson’s estimation, is the proposed Measure B transient occupancy tax increase (from the current 8% to 12%) also on the April ballot. Local lodging facilities collect this tax from guests and remit the monies to the City, which in turn keeps 100 percent of those proceeds. “These funds will be used for City needs, such as aging buildings, Rec and Parks facilities, street and sewer repair, education, fire and safety, economic development, advertising to our hotels/motels and more,” Atkinson said. “This does not come out of our residents’ pockets and the tax increase will still leave El Segundo below the area average of 12.9% while providing a way to combat rising costs for the City. For me, everything comes down to what is best for the City…” • that had residents cranking up the thermostat. “Home heating drives most of the residential gas bills so cold weather will increase gas bills,” Chow said. The December billing period was longer by two to four days for some customers, a result of the holidays. January’s billing period reflected in February bills was two to four days shorter, Chow explained. The drilling operation to cap the leak near Porter Ranch is not costing customers, he said. SoCal Gas said it stopped the methane-gas leak on Feb. 12, four months after San Fernando Valley residents began complaining about a strong odor, nausea, headaches and nosebleeds, according to health officials. “None of the costs incurred by SoCalGas to resolve the Aliso Canyon Storage Field leak are included in customer rates,” Chow said. Residential gas rates were slightly higher in December for the typical customer because the wholesale price of natural gas rose 4 percent, according to the commission spokesman. SoCal Gas passes along the higher wholesale cost to its customers. On top of the wholesale price increase, residential usage in December nearly doubled from the month before, according to the Public Utilities Commission. The commission continues to investigate specific high bills that are cannot be explained by the weather, higher usage or holiday billing period, Chow said. It’s likely that February bills will be lower because of unseasonably hot weather. Metereologists say that high pressure settled over the region, reversing the El Nino effect. They expect the heaviest of the winter storms to arrive in March and April. Westside residents complained to L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin that December and January’s gas bills were pricey even for the winter. At least one Porter Ranch resident who stayed in his home told the L.A. Daily News his monthly bill was more than three times the $100 amount he and his wife pay to heat their 1,800-square-foot home. “Suddenly, I get this monster bill,” Arthur Kalnit said. A newsletter mailed last week to gas customers contained “Winter Billing FAQs.” Half of a household’s winter bill is for home heating. The water heater accounts for 25 percent See Gas Company, page 12 STARS & STRIPES A M E R I C A N M A D E C L O T H I N G S T O R E COME CHECK US OUT! 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