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Big jumps ahead for water, sewer in Lathrop

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POSTED January 13, 2009 1:58 a.m.

LATHROP — Lathrop residents could be digging deeper into their pocketbooks for the next five years starting in February for the privilege of flushing their toilets and turning on their faucets for a drink of water.

The needed five-year boosts in the utility bills would see monthly sewer costs jump from $34 to $71 for east Lathrop residents, $34 to $63 a month for homeowners on the west side, and from $1,279 to $1,803 for businesses located in the Crossroads Commerce Center on South Harlan Road. Monthly water rates would be boosted from $39 to $60 for those on the east side, and $30 to $51 for those on the west side.

East side, also called historic Lathrop, refers to the areas east of Interstate 5. West side refers to the area west of the freeway which, right now, only consists mainly of the new homes at Mossdale Landing.

To soften the financial blow of the proposed utility rate hikes, the city has devised a plan that would distribute those increases in a five-year period instead of one big spike in residents’ monthly bills.

That plan will see the gradual increase every year of the monthly bills. In the water rates, for example, the monthly increases would be $4 this year for a total of $43 a month, $3 in 2010 or $46 a month, $5 in 2011 for $51 a month, $4 in 2012 for $55 a month, and finally $5 in 2013 for $60 a month. That’s for all residents in historic Lathrop or the east side.

Increases for those on the west side are the same but with lower total monthly figures: from the current $30 a month to $34 in February, $37 in 2010, $42 in $2011, $46 in 2012, and $51 in 2013. However, residents on this west side of town pay $9 a month to the South San Joaquin Irrigation District on top of their monthly water bills for the surface water coming from the district’s Surface Water Project. This state-of-the-art project is a joint effort among the cities of Manteca, Tracy, Escalon and Lathrop along with the irrigation district. This cooperative venture was to let new development pay its way, which is why west side residents are charged the extra $9 a month through a property tax.

Sewer rates, on the other hand, would go from the current $34 a month for both east and west side residents, to $71 for the east side and $63 on the west side in five years. Again, as in the water bills, the proposed increases would be spread out over five years with monthly increases ranging from $4 to $10.

Two sparsely attended Town Hall-type meetings were held last week at the Community Center, for those who live on the east side of Interstate 5, and at City Hall for residents on the west side. The separate meetings, designed to inform citizens about the reasons for the hikes, were for the convenience of residents.

Sewer rates have to be increased to cover costs connected with state- and federal-mandated requirements such as the plant upgrades. The latest upgrades, for example, at the Manteca wastewater treatment plant where Lathrop historically has a 14.7 percent stake in treatment capacity, cost Lathrop sewer customers $4.3 million.

The differences in the monthly sewer bills are attributed to the differences in treatment plants that serve residents on the east and west sides. Homes and businesses on the east side and north of Louise Avenue have their wastewater pumped to the Manteca plant. Lathrop has a 14.7 percent share of the facility’s treatment capacity because Lathrop contributed that much in the plant’s construction several decades ago.

Residents and businesses on the west side, on the other hand, are served by the brand new treatment facility called Water Recycling Plant No. 1 for which the city obtained permit from the state in 2005 to operate.

Crossroads Commerce Center has its own recycling plant whose operation went into effect in 1992 but which, since then, needed upgrades and improvements which also required money, hence the increases in the rates.

Compared with other cities, and with the proposed hikes in sewer and water rates, Lathrop is higher than the city of Ripon ($15.35 a month) and lower than Manteca ($39.50 a month, or just 10 cents more than Lathrop) in the sewer rates; and still higher than Ripon ($29.90 a month) and also higher than Manteca ($35.69 a month) in water bills.

Residents who would like to register their opposition to these proposed hikes, or who would like to make any comments, are encouraged to send their letters to the City Clerk’s office at City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive, Lathrop 59330.

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