On June 28, Seerate Sharma and Garth Pecchenino of QK Inc. met with the community of Dos Palos regarding water rate increases.
The current water treatment facility was constructed in 1969 and has operated well beyond its useful life.
The water treatment facility currently draws from the California Aqueduct. The water is then treated and stored on-site using two ground level storage tanks and one elevated tank.
The current water plant capacity is 2.2 million gallons per day. With the new plant, the water capacity will be four-million gallons per day and can be expanded to add another two-million gallons.
City Staff have faced many challenges in past years to maintain its existing water treatment facility functional. The city was able to secure a funding grant with the State Water Board for up to $30 million dollars in grant money for the construction costs of the project; the engineering estimate for the water replacement project is slightly less than $26 million.
Councilmember Debbie Orlando was in attendance and added “if this does not pass, we can’t build anymore houses and we can’t have any new business, this town will not grow.”
With the grant money, the project would be 100 percent funded, with no construction costs paid by customers. The customers would be responsible for the monthly service fee to maintain the operation and maintenance of the new water treatment facility.
For the State Water Board to fund the construction of the water plant, the city must have the financial means to maintain operation and maintenance of the new water plant.
Water rate changes are being considered due to the aging infrastructure, increased costs of current operation and maintenance since the last rate study while also considering future increased costs if the new water plant is constructed.
The monthly service fee is intended to cover the annual and daily operation of the services to the customers, which is not always the case. When the service fees do not cover operating and maintenance expenses, the city has to fund the increased costs outside of the monthly service fee paid by customers.
Proposed water rates vary by type of service (residential, school, commercial) and water usage. In comparison with seven surrounding cities, the proposed rates for the City of Dos Palos are still lower than six cities where water rates estimated average is based on 2,000 cubic feet amount of water usage.
The total bill for a customer may be different based on the amount of water used.
Proposition 218 is a procedure for property-related fee changes and includes a public hearing at which property owners and customers may protest the proposed water rate increase the monthly water rate represents only those costs associated with providing the service.
Under proposition 218 the monthly water rate fees cannot be used for anything other than the labor costs, chemicals, insurance, equipment, maintenance, billing and electrical power to operate the water treatment facility.
Each parcel is allowed one protest. If either the owner or customer protests that equals one protest vote. If no majority protests (50%+1), then fees can be adopted. In cases where no protest is made, silence will equal consent.
The process for protesting the rate increase is for the owner or customer to print their name, physical address, APN number if possible and to sign a letter of protest stating that they would like to protest the rate increase.
A protest must be mailed or given to the council prior to end of the July 18 hearing that is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
A customer is considered the person who owns the account and receives the monthly bill. If the city receives 50%+1 protest, they will verify the owners/customer information and report back to the community.
If the protest is verified at 50%+1, the city will need to find another way to cover the operating and maintenance costs of the new water plant. In the event the city does not find another way to cover the costs, the grant will not be available for use.
The City of Dos Palos has not received any money from the grant and grant funds will not be available for use for anything under than the new water treatment facility.
Pecchenino clarified that the state is only providing funding for the amount required to build the new plant. The contractor that is awarded the bid will invoice the work completed and the state will provide reimbursement to cover the costs.
Residents voiced concern about the selection process of the contractor and any conflicts of interest with staff and the selection process. The contract will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder and residents are encouraged to attend the city council meetings to stay informed of the project process.
Water rate study reports and a timeline of the project are available at Dos Palos City Hall.
The City of Dos Palos will hold its public hearing at its regular monthly meeting on July 18, 6-7:30 p.m. at the City of Dos Palos 2174 Blossom St.