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STUDIES PRECURSOR FOR WATER, SEWER RATE HIKES
Manteca City Council being asked to spend $700K on work needed to impose first rate increases since 2009
water treatment
The water treatment facility on Moffat Boulevard that assures water pumped from three municipal wells are safe for drinking.

Two rate studies — one for water and one for sewer — are expected to be authorized tonight by the Manteca City Council.

And in doing so, it is likely to set in motion the final steps leading up to what is basically a forgone conclusion that there will be rate hikes for both municipal utilities before  the start of 2025.

That’s because the last rate hike imposed for either water or sewer was in 2009.

It is basically unheard of for a city to go 15 years without increasing water and sewer rates given the impacts of wage and material inflation on operations and the need to replace lines and other infrastructure as they age.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The city has already paid HydroScience Engineers $963,926 to develop an updated water master plan.

Concurrently, they paid Stantec $1.04 million to update the wastewater master plan.

Stantec will now do the sewer rate hike study based on the master plan they developed for an additional $400,000.

The water rate hike study by HyrdroScience will cost $300,000.

Rate have gone unchanged since 2009 even though a previous council that year put in place a four-step increase over the ensuing four years.

That same council, when 2010 rolled around, opted to put the first scheduled rate increase on Jan. 1, 2010 “in abeyance” due to wage cuts of existing pay and previously committed raises that city employees agreed to take — including those paid out of separate enterprise fund accounts such as water and sewer.

Employees agreed to the wage reductions to help the city cope with budget shortfalls triggered by the Great Recession.

At the time, city leaders said it was a gesture to help residents struggling with the economic downtown and mortgage foreclosure crisis

The council at the time – as well as a subsequent one — also suspended the rate increases scheduled for 2011, 2012, and 2013.

In doing so, they essentially eliminated funding for needed replacement of aging pipeline that eventually led to emergency repairs of the Union Road line when it failed in 2018 as well as a Louise Avenue line that shortly thereafter was determined to be almost at the point it would fail as well.

Then in 2014 a series of unrelated events took place.

The city’s longtime finance director retired.

Other longtime key employees retired.

The revolving door then started spinning on the senior management level.

An understaffed finance department staff — and some contend inadequate experience at the top  — came into play.

The city then went through five city managers in less than four years.

In the mess, no one paid attention to the need to increase sewer and water rates.

The current council, trying to make sure the city’s infrastructure is properly addressed, commissioned two studies on needs and operating costs for both municipal water and sewer operations.

The bottom financial line of the water master plan and wastewater master plan updates the City Council accepted last month: Manteca needs to spend in excess of $633 million on water and wastewater system improvements through 2045.

Of that, roughly 22 percent or $142 million will need to be covered by existing households and commercial concerns.

 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com