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Sewer service in works for Lathrop High
Interim sewer service may be on the way for Lathrop High. - photo by Bulletin file photo

LATHROP — The three Lathrop Council members present at Tuesday  night’s meeting all voted to approve the agreement that will provide interim sewer service for the new Lathrop High School.

But while the vote was unanimous, it could also be considered a truce between the major players involved.

The major players are the city, and the consortium of developers that built the wastewater recycling plant from which the high school is getting its temporary sewer service, namely, River Islands, TCN Properties and Pacific Union Homes.

The developers believe this transfer of wastewater capacity from Mossdale to Central Lathrop, two separate developments west of Interstate 5, is in violation of the agreement made by the city and the consortium which funded with their own hard cash the building of the wastewater treatment plant to serve their Mossdale and River Islands development projects and whose capacity is now being transferred to the high school site.

The school district ended up owning some of this capacity for the construction of its two elementary schools at Mossdale Landing — Mossdale School which is now open, and Ethel Allen whose construction has been put on indefinite hold in the wake of the real estate mortgage meltdown. It’s this capacity owned by the district which, according to city officials, is being transferred temporarily to the high school. However, the high school is located in the Central Lathrop area, with Richland Planned Communities as the master developer who was supposed to build the sewer treatment plant for their development including the high school. But Richland, according to city officials, has not been able to fulfill those contractual obligations leaving the high school without sewer service amenities and thus requiring the interim solution that was approved Tuesday night by three of the council members present. Mayor Kristy Sayles and Councilman Robert Oliver were absent.

While that interim-sewer agreement, which incorporated language to accommodate the concerns brought up by the consortium, received blessings from both the city and the developers, both parties agreed to disagree — for now — in the interest of a project that is dear to all concerned: to keep the high school open.

The deal that was approved will allow the Manteca Unified School District to continue pumping and hauling sewage generated at the high school site, but to a closer dumping site at the Mossdale pump station instead of to the Manteca treatment plant on West Yosemite Avenue near McKinley Avenue. The shorter distance will, for one thing, help reduce the cost of transporting school sewage to Manteca which, according to Interim Superintendent Jason Messer, has been costing the district $1,000 a day initially but is now down to about $500 with trucks doing the pump-and-haul process only every other day.

Before the vote was made, River Islands Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso addressed the council on behalf of the consortium regarding the developers’ concerns. She said the consortium does not have any problem with the high school using their sewer capacity but that they wanted the city to know that they have major concerns about the agreement that had been hammered out between the city and the school district, and that these are “at least, acknowledged by the city.”

One of the major issues she pointed out was that this transfer of sewer capacity from Mossdale to the high school site will not set a precedent for other transfers in the future.

In the letter submitted to the city by the members of the Mossdale consortium, they stated that their “intent is not to stop the city from reallocating the interim (underscored) sewer capacity from one MUSD property to another it also owns” and that they “support the city’s desire” to keep the school open.

However, they further clarified that they believe this sewer capacity transfer is “unique,” in part, because of its interim nature and that it involves transferring capacity to a different parcel owned by the same public agency, in this case, the school district.

City officials responded to the developers’ contentions about violations to the consortium agreement provisions, in particular, the issue over whether this transfer of sewer capacity should require a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process by stating in an addendum to the manager’s report, “We are happy to agree to disagree with the West Lathrop developers about these issues and to defer resolving our differences until a proposal for ...(a) sewer service is made for projects that the West Lathrop developers cannot support. This may not, of course, ever happen.”