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Another delay in water treatment partnership

POSTED August 26, 2011 11:11 p.m.

On again, off again.

The long-debated plan to treat Tuolumne River water for use as drinking water in the City of Turlock and surrounding communities was pulled from the Turlock City Council’s agenda Tuesday night, after the City of Hughson desired more time to discuss the plan.

The agenda item had called for Turlock to enter into a Joint Powers Authority with the Cities of Ceres, Hughson, and Modesto, creating an agency solely intended to investigate the water treatment project.  But the City of Hughson was unable to finalize a report on the plan to take before its council, forcing a delay.

Hughson City Manager Brian Whitemyer said Hughson city staff wanted to complete “additional analysis and review” on the plan before asking for council approval. Whitemyer now expects the report to go before the Hughson council on Sept. 12.

“I think it’s a great project,” Whitemyer said, “and it’s been great to partner with Turlock, Ceres and Modesto, and that’s something we hope to continue going forward.”

The plan, which dates back to October 2005, calls for the four cities to obtain drinking water from a new water treatment plant, which would be installed near Fox Grove. The Turlock Irrigation District must send that water down the river, so as to meet fish habitat requirements, but is not required to leave the water in the river past Fox Grove.

The project may be essential to securing a water supply for a growing City of Turlock, but could result in citizens’ water rates tripling. In hopes of driving down some of those costs, the City of Turlock joined with Modesto, Ceres and Hughson to form the East Stanislaus Regional Water Management Partnership on Tuesday, which will allow the region to apply for state water bond funds.

Roy Wasden, Turlock city manager, said he has yet to hear back from Hughson, but expects the cash-strapped city may have concerns about the project’s price tag. Regardless of whether Hughson opts to remain a full partner in the project, or decides to simply purchase water from a plant constructed by other cities, Wasden said the project will return for discussion at a future Turlock City Council meeting.

“It’s got to go forward,” Wasden said.

 

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:

Permitted Yellow Cab taxi driver Jimmy John Davis, of Turlock, as the city’s sole taxi driver. Previously, Turlock had no active permitted cab drivers, following the council’s decision a month ago to deny renewal of Duncan Sansom’s permit. Sansom failed to meet Turlock’s taxi driver standards with two speeding tickets in the past year.Created a new position at the City of Turlock: Water Conservation Worker. The position will support water conservation education efforts, assist in water turn-ons and turn-offs and meter reads, and provide field support for the utilities and finance divisions.Returned $200,000 to the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation. The $200,000 is part of $600,000 in donations the foundation collected, which were given to the city to pay for construction of the renovated Carnegie Arts Center. The city agreed to use the foundation donations only after exhausting all other funding.
Preliminary accounting indicates the full $600,000 will eventually be returned to the foundation, due to lower than expected construction costs. However, as the Carnegie’s Sept. 10 opening is imminent and it will take months to complete final accounting before the full $600,000 can be reimbursed, the council authorized the initial $200,000 payment.Finalized an update to the City’s Water Code, in part upping the delinquency charge for late water payments from $10 to $25.
The code changes, which were introduced at the Aug. 9 council meeting, also discourage water theft, make installation of water connections more business-friendly, allow “flow through” fire sprinkler systems at residences, and require Turlock purchase well sites large enough to accommodate wellhead treatment systems.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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