Mark Elliott has to hit the ground running.
On Monday the lifelong Lathrop resident will be sworn in as the newest member of the Lathrop City Council after being appointed last week to serve the remainder of the first-half of Councilman Omar Ornelas’ term which was vacated at the end of last year.
But his new colleagues didn’t do him any favors by letting his first night on the dais be an easy one.
Earlier this month when the council was set to make a decision on whether to increase water and sewer rates to keep the funds that serve them fiscally solvent for the near future, the council unanimously decided to wait until a replacement was seated so they could have a tie-breaking vote if that scenario were to arise.
The matter hasn’t generated a lot of contention amongst the council members themselves, but some residents have voiced displeasure that Lathrop’s water and sewer bills, if approved, would be among the highest in the county and markedly higher than some neighboring communities.
When it comes to water, however, not two places are alike.
Lathrop draws the majority of its water from ground wells around town and high traces of naturally occurring elements like uranium and arsenic have prompted the city to take proactive steps in getting the levels of both down to an acceptable level – especially after the arsenic threshold set by the Federal government fell significantly.
A state-of-the-art arsenic filtering station was constructed on the outskirts of the community to remove the majority of the element from tainted water, and high uranium levels have meant that at least one well has to be blended with water from another to dilute the concentration.
The drought, however, has been a massive catalyst in forcing the city to look into raising the rates of residents.
According to staff reports, the need for the increase was spurred partially by California’s ongoing drought – with mandatory water reductions being imposed, the amount of money generated through the water fund was greatly diminished over the course of the last year, and while an El Nino system has brought above-average rainfall for the majority of Northern California, it’s expected to take more than one of those years to return water storage levels to an adequate position. Rate increases would depend on which side of I-5 that the resident lives on. This year, if the proposal passes the protest phase, east Lathrop residents would see their bill increase from $59.40 to $63, and would go up to $67 in 2017, $71 in 2018, $75 in 2019 and $79 in 2020. Residents west of I-5, this year, would see their existing bill go up from $59.85 to $66, and then up to $72 in 2017, $79 in 2018, $84 in 2019 and $87 in 2020.Base water rates would also increase over the same time span, and a simultaneous increase for every 1,000 gallons of water uses would also be applied each year.
The council will also discuss its sphere of influence plan on Monday, Feb. 1.