Weekend News Briefs from CVBT

November 10, 2017 9:01pm
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•  State tells utilities to go easy on wildfire victims

•  Private university changes admissions policy to attract more from community colleges

•  And more....

State orders utilities to protect victims of wildfires

The California Public Utilities Commission is ordering energy, water, and telecommunication utilities to take multiple actions to help protect consumers who are impacted by the October wildfires.

In order to help wildfire-impacted communities, the CPUC took the following actions:

• Wildfire-impacted consumers cannot be disconnected by their utilities -- Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, or Liberty Utilities -- for nonpayment and associated fees through November 9, 2018.

• Utilities must discontinue billing customers whose homes are not capable of receiving utility services, and utilities cannot asses a disconnection charge.

• Utilities must waive deposit requirements for affected residents seeking to re-establish service for one year, and must expedite move-in and move-out service requests.

• Utilities must stop energy usage estimates for billing for the time the home/unit was unoccupied as a result of the wildfires.

• Affected customers who have prior arrearages and have lost their homes or have been displaced and are seeking to establish service in a new residence, must be offered a payment plan with an initial payment of no greater than 20 percent of the amount due, and with equal installments for the remainder of not less than 12 billing cycles. For affected customers who currently have service but go into arrearage after October 17, 2017, the utilities must offer a payment plan with an initial payment of no greater than 20 percent of the amount due, and with equal installments for the remainder of not less than eight billing cycles.

• Utilities must prorate any monthly access charge or minimum charges for affected customers typically assessed so that no customer will bear any of these costs for the time period after the customer’s home was rendered unserviceable by a fire.

• For customers enrolled in the low income program CARE, utilities must freeze eligibility standards and high-usage post-enrollment verification requests until at least December 31.

Further, the CPUC has authorized PG&E to waive the costs that would normally be incurred to customers for establishing temporary service.

Communication companies in fire-impacted areas must refund their customers for the periods that the customers were without service due to the October fires.

“It is important that all utility service providers continue to work cooperatively and creatively to ensure residents and businesses impacted by the fires are assisted in their difficult path to recovery,” says Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.


Sanitation district goes solar

Construction on a solar power plant for the Selma-Kingsburg-Fowler County Sanitation District is underway.

OpTerra Energy Services and Green Charge are doing the work which is to end with a clean energy generation and storage program that will help power treatment facilities across all 550 acres of the district’s service territory.

As a result of the integrated solar, battery storage, and other conservation technology upgrades, the district expects to save $14.7 million in energy and maintenance costs over the span of the program.

The Selma-Kingsburg-Fowler County Sanitation District provides collection, treatment, and disposal of wastewater for nearly 43,000 Fresno County residents – managing nearly 11,300 residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial treatment connections.

More than 2.4 megawatts of solar photovoltaics will be installed at the wastewater treatment plant, along with a solar parking structure at the administration building. A 500 kW/1,000 kWh energy storage battery system and other key energy efficiency measures such as HVAC unit replacements and LED lighting retrofits will supplement the solar implementation.

By installing the solar system under net energy metering, the district will receive full compensation from Pacific Gas & Electric for all the electricity generated by the solar projects at any time. And with the new battery storage technology, the district will avoid paying peak demand charges from the utility by flattening its load.


Fresno Pacific changes transfer policy to help students earn bachelor’s degree

A new policy from Fresno Pacific University is expected to make it easier for community college students to transfer their credits to the private university.

FPU now aligns its transfer agreements with the California State University system, meaning students who have completed transfer associate degrees have also completed FPU’s lower-division general-education requirements. Fresno Pacific had previously aligned with the University of California model.

“By aligning with the CSU model, it became more convenient, and easier, for the students to know what to take and what not to take; it just made it a cleaner process for students,” says Denise Baronian, associate director of regional enrollment.


Bookstore partners with Children’s Home of Stockton

As the holiday season approaches, Children’s Home of Stockton is partnering with the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble for its Holiday Book Drive.

It provides customers the opportunity to donate books to locally designated non-profit organizations.

Last year, Barnes & Noble customers and booksellers provided more than 1.5 million books to over 650 local charitable organizations that provide services to children across the country. Children’s Home of Stockton received a donation of 1,300 books for its students thanks to community members.

Customers are invited to visit the Barnes & Noble store in the Weberstown mall 4950 Pacific Avenue to give the gift of reading to children in need by donating a book.

Children’s Home of Stockton is one of the largest social service organizations in Stockton and has served at-risk youth for 135 years.

“We are so thrilled to be a recipient of the Holiday Book Drive again and hope this will inspire people to donate a book that they loved growing up to pass on to a child or moreover a teenager who could really benefit,” says Joelle Gomez, chief executive officer at the Children’s Home of Stockton.


Free citizenship workshop planned

Officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will present a free two-hour workshop covering the naturalization process, the test, and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.

It’s scheduled for November 30 at the Margaret Troke Library at 502 W. Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton.

The public is invited to attend. A demonstration citizenship test will be performed, and free materials will be handed out. This session is part of a larger USCIS initiative to help immigrants better understand the many services available.


California’s U.S. Senators blast GOP tax plan

California’s two U.S. Senators, both Democrats,Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, say the House Republican tax reform bill will eliminates the deduction for personal losses from wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, while preserving them for recent hurricanes.

California is hurricane-free but has repeated earthquakes and wildfires and floods and mudslides and other natural disasters.

“After the worst fire season in California history, it’s unbelievable that Republicans are considering eliminating the tax deduction for losses suffered during a natural disaster. Asking victims of wildfires or earthquakes to suffer in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich is the height of cruelty,” the lawmakers say in a joint statement.

The October California wildfires killed 43 people and nearly 8,900 buildings were destroyed, resulting in billions of dollars in damages.

Under the Republican plan, families who lose everything in a similar disaster in the future would be unable to write off those losses, say Ms. Feinstein and Ms. Harris.


Valley bank recognized for service

For the second year in a row, family-owned BAC Community Bank in Stockton has been named one of the top extraordinary banks in the United States by the Institute for Extraordinary Banking.

This year, BAC Community Bank was recognized with two awards. In addition to receiving the Mark of Excellence for Community Banks, it was also recognized for its focus on customers by being presented the Institute’s Above-and-Beyond Customer Service Excellence award among banks with $500 million to $1 billion in assets.

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