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Council Approves Water Rate Increases For City

A new water rate schedule adopted by the Escalon City Council nearly three years ago was brought back for review at the Feb. 20 council session, and council members agreed to follow through with the proposed rate hike for this year.

On March 16, 2015, the council adopted the schedule, which included annual increases with each March billing cycle. City staff was also asked to bring back the schedule increase with an evaluation of the fund prior to implementation each year.

The increase for residential will go from a base rate of $43.10 to $47.29 for the March bill, as approved by council vote. The use charge for Tier 1, officials added, will go from $0.93 to $1.03 per 1,000 gallons.

City Manager Tammy Alcantor said residential customers will see about a 10 percent increase in the March billing, or roughly a $10 to $15 increase, with the billing done for a two-month period.

For commercial users, the increase in fees for water could be anywhere between $18 and $31 per billing period, based on usage.

Prior to the council action in 2015 to implement the annual incases, the water rates had not been raised in years. The staggered increases approved by the council are designed to help the city slowly catch up to where the rates should be to help the service be self-supporting.

The new rates were enacted in May 2015 with subsequent increases in March 2016 and March 2017. This would be the third year of the increase.

Several capital improvement projects identified and included in the rate study done in 2015 have either been completed or are ongoing, with funds realized from the water rate increases helping to defray costs of those projects.

Abandonment of Well #7 was completed during fiscal year 2014-15 at a cost of $9,972 – up from the original cost estimate of $7,500. Other projects still ongoing include Well #3 pump replacement/rehabbing – which was estimated at $30,000 and so far is 90 percent complete, with the cost now closer to $56,000. Also planned is a water meter replacement program, with a $54,000 annual cost, and city officials are currently meeting with vendors to determine the best option for a citywide switch over to fixed read meters.

“The original listing of Capital Improvement Projects included the cost for a storage tank at Well No. 1 site,” Alcantor said, “but since the study was completed, it has been determined that a new will be required.”

The cost estimate for the storage tank was over $650,000 – the new well is estimated at $1.5 million.