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Council approves second city service rate hike
city council pic
Turlock residents will be paying 7 percent more for water starting Jan. 1, 2016. - photo by Photo Contributed

Residents of Turlock will be paying 7 percent more for water come Jan. 1, 2016, as the Turlock City Council voted on Tuesday to approve the third of six rate increases introduced in July 2014.

The water rate hike comes two weeks after the City Council voted to increase solid waste fees by 9.16 percent.

"I'm not a real advocate for fee increases; I struggle with that," said Vice Mayor Amy Bublak.

Bublak and other council members voiced concerns of the burden the rate hike will have on low-income residents and senior citizens on a fixed income.

State law prevents municipalities from subsidizing rates, according to Turlock's Regulatory Affairs Manager Garner Reynolds, however, the Council directed City staff to look into other funds that could be used to assist low-income residents, including the General Fund or fines incurred by water wasters.

"And we should recognize that there's inherent in the amount of water you use, a savings that will occur," said City Manager Roy Wasden.

The City of Turlock switched from a base rate water charge to having residents pay for the amount of water used in 2014, a system that encourages water conservation.

The new rate, compiled of three primary charges, includes increases for a single/multi-family residency commodity charge from the current 57 cents per 1,000 gallons to 63 cents; a capacity charge increase from $20 a month to $21.20; and the customer charge will rise from $2.50 to $2.60 per month.

Also on Tuesday, the City Council:

— Approved the rezone and Conditions of Approval for the expansion of the Turlock Walnut Company. The new facility will include approximately 62,500 square feet of warehouse, packing and cold storage, as well as 900 square feet of fumigation space at 400 Third St. The existing 2,500 square foot office building, located at 400 D St., will also remain in use.

The Council approved a number of deviations from the City's industrial zoning regulations, including allowing fewer parking spaces, reducing the requirements from 20-foot setbacks to 12 to 17 feet, depending on location, and allowing Turlock Walnut Company to defer the installation of sidewalks on half of the streets that border the property, despite concerns from the Planning Department and a resident.

"We just approved our Active Transportation Plan," said Deputy Director of Development Services and Planning Debbie Whitmore. "When projects like this come forward, this is one of the few ways the City can help make Turlock a more walkable and bikeable community."

"What is the use of having a standard if you don't stick to it," said Turlock resident Joshua Mallory. "Even if there's not a lot of pedestrian traffic doesn't mean there won't be in the future. It seems short-sided to view it from just the economic standpoint."

Before voting on the amendment, Vice Mayor Bublak said that she had walked around the property and although standards are important it was definitely an industrial area and not a place "you want to walk your kids with the big trucks" passing by.

The Council also commented that they hoped the construction would attract more businesses to that industrial area of town.

— Approved the 2014-2023 Housing Element. The City is required by the State to prepare a Housing Element as part of its General Plan. The purpose of the Housing Element is to encourage the provision of affordable and decent housing in all communities to meet state-wide housing goals.

— Adopted new policies and procedures for administering a monitoring program for the Community Development Block Grant Program. In response to new requirements for grants managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the City of Turlock drafted a Monitoring Plan to provide an internal control mechanism designed to review performance and evaluate compliance of nonprofit sub-recipients funded with Community Development Block Grant funds.

— Voted to postpone updating the Downtown Design Guidelines and Zoning Regulations until an outside funding can be identified and revisit the decision within the next two years.

— Voted to award the Turlock Junior Rodeo $2,000 in Community Events and Activities Grant Funding and award the 49th Assyrian State Convention the remaining program funds of $3,750.

— Authorized a Request for Proposal to conduct an executive recruitment for the position of City Manager. Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden announced his retirement on Oct. 14, with his final day in the office expected to be Dec. 7.