Council takes first step to raise sewer rates
by Joel Danoy
Jul 19, 2013 | 4324 views | 22 22 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Tracy City Council took the first step Tuesday, July 16, toward adopting a $3 increase to wastewater rates for customers living in single-family homes.

A unanimous vote by council members approved the first reading of a proposal that will raise the average bill for a single-family home, now $31, to a monthly rate of $34, according to Steve Bayley, public works project specialist.

The increase, which should last for two years, will take effect 30 days after the council approves the final reading of the ordinance. That is expected to occur during an August meeting, Bayley said.

An increase — the first since 2006 — is needed to fund the construction of a $25 million outflow pipeline that will deliver treated wastewater north from Tracy to Old River in Lathrop.

More than half of the project’s cost, about $14 million, will be covered by the rate increase, while developer fees collected by the city will cover the remaining $11 million.

The new 3.5-mile pipeline — which can handle 16 million gallons a day and should last 60 to 80 years — is critical because it’s the only deliverance method for discharging the city’s wastewater, according to Bayley. The existing pipeline — which pumps about 9 million gallons of wastewater a day — is more than 40 years old and is showing signs of its age.

Bayley told council members that it “would be downright foolish” to delay the two-year process of installing the new pipeline.

“If the pipe became damaged, say by a farmer or San Joaquin County cleaning the ditches and something poked a hole in it, we would have to shut down our treatment plant to repair that pipeline,” he said. “We can’t discharge water. Water could also flow out of that pipe, maybe into farmers’ fields, but maybe into Paradise Cut or Tom Paine Slough, waters of the U.S. and we would be subject to severe penalties … because it’s not an approved point of discharge.”

Time is also of the essence, according to Bayley, because the new pipeline will traverse a corn field in Lathrop that is slated for rezoning as wildlife habitat.

Once that happens, Bayley said construction “is virtually impossible,” because the pipeline can’t be built within 300 feet of the habitat.

“I don’t know what we would do, I don’t know an alternative,” he said. “We’ve planned for about 10 years. It’s been in the budget and it’s currently in the budget.”

Councilman Robert Rickman had concerns about raising the rate, citing “tough economic times” that he said residents in the city are experiencing.

He voted for the ordinance with the condition that the council would reexamine the increase if the construction bid for the project came in below the city’s estimate of $25 million. The bidding process for construction should begin in December, with a winner selected by February.

“I just think it’s a bad time to do it; however, with the infrastructure the way it is, we’re kind of put in a tough spot,” he said. “For me, at least, a yes vote is contingent upon the bid process. I want to know, if we are overcharging, then I would like to see the fees go back to the residents of Tracy.”

Councilwoman Nancy Young asked what happens if the bid is less than the estimated costs and Bayley said the city can conduct a new rates study or keep that money for future projects that will inevitably happen.

“It’s desirable to charge the true cost of service,” Bayley said. “But we have to estimate it right now and we can’t dial it down.”

  • Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or jdanoy@tracypress.com.
Comments
(22)
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ChrisRoberts
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July 23, 2013
Folks, by now it should be clear that developers run this town. They donate large sums of money (particularly to mayor Ives) to local politicians campaigns, which in turn dupe all of you uninformed voters.

So next election time, be sure to vote the same crooks in office, so you can have more of the same problems, and more of the same fee and tax hikes.

Can't wait to get out of this good ol boy town. It is straight up hill billy in Tracy!!!
General_Consensus
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July 23, 2013
Would you mind providing us with some sort of timeframe for when you'll be moving out? We’d all like to start planning your going-away party. Granted, it’s more for Tracy than for you, but it appears that you’re looking forward to it almost as much as the rest of us are.
Local_Yokel
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July 23, 2013
ChrisRoberts,

After that last response, this website might come in handy for you: http://www.wikihow.com/Treat-a-Burn
ChrisRoberts
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July 23, 2013
Don't worry, I'll be thinking of you when ever I smell cow pastures and see confederate flags!
flying__high
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July 22, 2013
Well I think I understand your point a little clearer now. I know that InShape has slides and a few pools, but they charge a membership fee. We also send our children to schools but our neighbors are seniors and they do not, yet they pay for the schools too.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't mind pitching in, a little, on something that's good for the community.

And if you look at an aireal view of Tracy you will see that almost every other home already has a pool. So, a lazy river sounds like a splash to me.

But I can understand if its not for you. Wish it were free and money grew on trees and my brother wishes cigarettes grew on trees. But I digress.

I don't think we are anywhere near Valejo. Maybe Livermore, who also has a "water world".

BTW Thanks for the clarifications!
behonestguys
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July 23, 2013
flying_high

And I appreciate your comments as well. At the end of the day, people with different viewpoints in good faith can disagree. As long as they do it with proper respect and without vitriol, the conversation is well worth it. That's what makes living in a democracy such as ours a great thing.
behonestguys
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July 22, 2013
flying_high,

I have no problem with a water park - as long as it is done by private enterprise, with private money, and not city (i.e. taxpeyr) dollars. A swimming pool is okay - but the first phase does not encvision that - the first phase is lazy rivers, water slides, etc. The concern I have is that by having the City running such an enterprise, it could prove a drain on taxpayer coffers. Exhibit A in thatregard is the City of Vallejo. They fronte dover $50 million to bring Africa USA there form redwood City in the 90's. It then folded, and teh City of Vallejo had to pick up running the park for years. When it finally got rid of it to Six Flags, Vallejo was in bankruptcy, and anecdotal evidence suggests that when asked to take pay-cuts, the first thing employees would say is why should they take a pay cut to subsidize an amusement park. Although the swim center in not at such a grand scale as proposed, there are many similarities between Vallejo and what the City wants to get into. A pool - yes, not a problem. Water slides, lazy rivers, etc. - that is where we should be drawing the line. Let the private sector do that. Not the taxpayers.
flying__high
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July 22, 2013
Denver is an amazing place if you don't get altitude sickness. No offense taken.

On the other hand, I will disagree with your notion that "water world" will turn us into Chicago. If anything a "water world" would be a perk around here. But I respect that you disagree and can see where non swimmers wouldn't want to pay an extra buck. I also don't agree that it was "hidden". I don't think the actual cost was stated back then, but we all know that nothing is free. At least I know that to be true and understood it then And since I have a desire to see a "water world", I don't mind paying an extra dollar or three. Nothing personal, but many cities have amenities and they pay for water & sewerage to cover their "water world".

However it gets sliced and diced is fine with me, as long as it gets built. If you think Surland isn't paying his fair share then that would be a legit complaint, but to make it sound ghetto reminds me of the tea party type antics.

Maybe you can discuss why you feel it would be bad for a community to have a "water world". (You called Wally World). If so, it might help others to understand your views. Or do you want Surland to pay more? No worries.
Sneaky
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July 22, 2013
I am not opposed to the community having a water park but I am opposed to making folks who don't plan to use it pay for it. The cost should be shouldered by the developers and passed on to the users. It shouldn't be put on the backs of the taxpayers. If it can't stand on its own as a business then it shouldn't exist.
victor_jm
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July 22, 2013
Come on, Sneaky. You know parasites are vital to the ecological health of our earth (and community).

I am kidding, man. Keep up the good work.
victor_jm
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July 22, 2013
By the way, I feel the same way about the Oakland Raiders--they can't stand on their own, so they ought to be eradicated.
flying__high
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July 23, 2013
Just to add a few things.

As a perk. Will it help generate a positive interest in the community? And might that have financial benefit? Increased home values, jobs, and even attract a few businesses?

I had thought that might be the case but wanted to hear any other comments in that vein.

I liked the Raider comment. Too funny.

behonestguys
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July 22, 2013
What really is disturbing is that the City knew they needed money to improve the wastewater system for over a year, but still went ahead and gave Surland $5,400,000.00 in free wastewater capacity, without telling us that this would cause us to foot a greater part of the bill in the form of the wastewater rate increase now being considered. Kind proves the Golden Rule is still king - he who has the gold (i.e. the Surlands of the world) rule. The rest of us are just peons. Time for the peons to put a broom to the Council and clean it out.
flying__high
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July 22, 2013
Surland only got 800 existing. The additional build out he has to pay for. And that's only a one time charge. Surland does not pay your monthly city bill anyway. The homeowner or renter pays.

But I don't think it was a bad idea. Only because it helped resolve Holland's concerns about a few parcels in the original agreement. With the amended agreement Holland will see this change and the ruling will either be overturned or the new agreement will superceed it. Either way, it resolves things for Holland to give the final thumbs up. So it's worth it.
behonestguys
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July 22, 2013
mile high:

The issue here is whether the City played "hide the ball" with the citizens of this town when they were discussing approving the Surland Development Agreement earlier in the year giving Les the free $5,400,000.00 in wastewater treatment capacity by not disclosing money was needed to upgrade the system, which is what they are asking for now. Read the minutes of the April 16th special council meeting - Steve Bayley, a city employee, admitted that the increase would have been a third less if Les had not gotten the $5,400,000.00 freebie as part of his Ellis DA. Bottom line - the sewer fund is being used to finance Les' Wally Waterworld without even putting it to a vote of the people. They should rename Tracy "Little Chicago".
behonestguys
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July 22, 2013
Sorry for calling you mile high flying_high. Had Denver on the brain!
walter07
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July 21, 2013
LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT...Three years ago they couldn't balance a budget not enough money!So they hiked our taxs to balance the budget. They just hired SEVEN cops...Now they need to raise our sewer rates...Are these council members IDIOTS?
Macpup
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July 20, 2013
I'm with Sneaky - why just single family homeowners? Are we the only ones using the new pipeline? If the pipeline cannot be built within 300 feet of a wildlife habitat, and we know one is is planned, why are we still doing it? What happens if this pipeline leaks in a wildlife habitat? Talk about penalties!

Who really believes this rate increase will only last two years? Seriously... we were sold that bill of goods with Measure E. The extension of which will be on the next ballot.

Bottom line - why just single-family homes? Middle incomers get to foot the bill AGAIN.
Sneaky
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July 19, 2013
I have some other problems with this:

"...a $3 increase to wastewater rates for customers living in single-family homes."

Why only single family homes? Shouldn't all the apartment dwellers, businesses and such share in the pain? Don't they use the water system too?

“If the pipe became damaged, say by a farmer or San Joaquin County cleaning the ditches and something poked a hole in it, we would have to shut down our treatment plant to repair that pipeline,” he said.

Is the new pipeline somehow immune to the same hazard?

"We’ve planned for about 10 years. It’s been in the budget and it’s currently in the budget.”

Your organization is completely inept if it has been in the planning stage for 10 years. At that rate it will take another 30 years to actually build it.

"He voted for the ordinance with the condition that the council would reexamine the increase if the construction bid for the project came in below the city’s estimate of $25 million."

You are joking with that right? Does anyone think the actual cost will be BELOW what was projected? I would bet ten to one it will be the opposite. This is a non-condition. He was already set on voting for it but wanted an excuse.
ChrisRoberts
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July 19, 2013
See folks this is what I have been talking about all along.

The city leaders giving their good ole boy developer buddies free sewage.

Because all of us will pick up the tab. Just wait till those homes are built.

More cops, fire fighters, roads, schools? Who is going to pay for it?

Get out of Tracy while you still can, folks!!!!!!
jarbuckle
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July 19, 2013
If the city wouldn't have given Surland free sewage for the fist 800 homes our monthly bill would be a dollar a month lower each according to Steve Bailey the city's water expert. Just give it to $erpa and let the rest of us pay for it. Typical of this city council.
walkingtall
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July 19, 2013
Sure, like usual, just have the city folks pay for it all! Does the city Manager not put money aside for such things? At least Rickman had the decency to consider that there are many folks who are unemployed, underemployed and just plain struggling. Good for him! It seems that the taxpayers are always the scapegoats in every situation. It really gets old. Tax and spend!!! The American Way!


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