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Lathrop delays water, sewer rate discussion
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The size and scope of the drought that has ravaged much of Northern California was still relatively unknown the last time the City of Lathrop raised rates for sewer and water back in January of 2013.

Now, nearly three years later – three years of dry winters and long, scorching summers – the city finds itself in awkward position that will likely end up meaning another rate hike is imminent.

Saving water will, ironically, end up costing taxpayers more money.

On Monday the Lathrop City Council was supposed to decide on a set of escalating rate increases intended to offset the shortfall in revenue that mandatory cutbacks have caused. And while Lathrop has hit most of its consumption targets, the lack of income from metered water has created a shortfall in the funds that are used to maintain and upkeep both the residential and commercial sewer and water systems.

But a formal decision was put on hold until the council, which only had three members present on Monday, will be back to full-strength.

According to Vice Mayor Steve Dresser, such a decision – one that affects nearly all of Lathrop’s residents and businesses – would be better considered when all five members are able to voice their input and offer suggestions on the way to move forward with a situation that has emerged as an unwelcome byproduct of California’s water reality.

Both Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal and Councilman Omar Ornelas were absent Monday night.

According to the staff report prepared for the item, the council as a whole was being asked not to decide on whether rates needed to be raised, but rather to set the formal legal process that will make an adoption possible – complying with the framework of Proposition 218 in order to ensure that both the water and wastewater enterprise funds remain healthy and solvent.

And other steps have been taken to minimize the impact of any possible rate increase. Just recently the council approved the decommissioning of the Crossroads Wastewater Treatment Facility that will save customers in the area $600,000-a-year and create a more streamlined system in-line with the future growth projections of that part of the community. A contact signed with Veolia Water Technologies in 2008 will save Lathrop $8.5 million over the 20-year life of the contract – a contract that was renegotiated in September to add an additional $40,000 per year in savings over the same time span.

Proposed monthly water increases, if approved as drafted, would span between $5 and $8-a-month over the course of the next five years. Sewer rate increases over the same period of time would range from $3.60-a-month up to $7-a-month depending on the year and the location of the customer.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.