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Council Approves Sewer Rate Hike
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Riverbank City Council members approved a staff recommendation to seek an increase in sewer fees at their July 13 meeting.

The vote was 3-0, with council member Danny Fielder absent.

According to a staff report by Public Works Director David Melilli, the city's sewer enterprise fund has been unable to meet increasing costs of maintaining the sewer system and the wastewater treatment plant, as well as costs to comply with new state treatment mandates. In 2003, the Central Valley region of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a notice of violation to the city for the accumulation of sludge in the wastewater treatment plant's primary treatment pond.

The council approved a $1.02 increase in sewer fees in 2003 to bring the pond in compliance, but the cost of the increase was insufficient to remove the sludge as mandated by the state water board.

The city later discovered that in addition to the sludge accumulation, a liner for one of the treatment plant's ponds was compromised. The liner was at least 40 years old, according to staff estimates, and this could have led to degradation of the local ground and surface water.

In January 2005 a bond was issued in the amount of $4.47 million for sewer improvements to bring the city's wastewater treatment plant in line with state water regulations. In 2006, the state required cities to implement a fully funded sewer system management plan, which the Riverbank City Council adopted in May 2008. Current law requires an assessment of the city's current sewer system, operation, vulnerabilities, and maintenance procedures.

A current plan by the city to meet state water board requirements includes $3.8 million to improve the wastewater treatment plant and $7.3 million to improve the collection system, for a total of $11.1 million of capital improvement needs beyond three years.

Melilli indicated the city has been working with consultants on a study to help prepare and review past and existing sewer rates to fund the necessary upgrades. Based on sewer revenue requirements needed to complete the projects, funds required for bond servicing, annual maintenance and operations, the study recommended an increase of $3.64 a month for sewer service for residents for fiscal year 2009-2010. City staff also recommended increases in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, bringing a monthly bill for residents to $26.05, up from the current $20.15.