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Stanislaus Regional Water Authority back on city council agenda
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The on-again, off-again plan to treat Tuolumne River water for use in the City of Turlock and neighboring cities is back on the Turlock City Council’s agenda Tuesday night.

The council is expected to appropriate $75,000 to fund the formation of a Joint Powers Authority with the Cities of Ceres, Hughson, and Modesto, forming the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority – an agency with the sole purpose of investigating that water treatment project.

The proposed Regional Surface Water Supply Project, initially approved in October 2005, calls for the four cities to obtain drinking water from a new water treatment plan, planned off Geer Road near Fox Grove, using water from the Tuolumne River. 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.

Currently, Turlock obtains all of its drinking water from groundwater wells.

In 2008, the cities balked at the cost of the project, which was cited as potentially tripling citizens’ water rates, and the project was put on hold. The cities then began meeting again, investigating the possibility of building, owning, and operating the water treatment plant themselves, rather than contracting with TID to purchase water treated by the district.

The agreement up for council approval calls for the JPA to make “responsible decisions” about the plant, to begin negotiations with TID for a raw water purchase agreement, and to determine financing alternatives.

As part of that financing plan, the council is also expected to join Modesto, Ceres, and Hughson to form the East Stanislaus Regional Water Management Partnership. Creating that group and developing an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan are the first steps to qualifying for state water bond funds, which could greatly offset the costs of a water treatment facility.

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council is also expected to:

·         Approve a permit for Yellow Cab taxi driver Jimmy John Davis, of Turlock. Currently, Turlock has 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.

·         Accept the results of budget negotiations, which will see all City of Turlock employees contribute 9 percent of their salary toward retirement costs. The change will see the City of Turlock’s budget deficit fall from $3.2 million to $1.9 million.

·         Create a new position at the City of Turlock: water conservation worker. The position would 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.

·         Adopt a payment schedule for redevelopment agency debts, pursuant to the state government’s plan to either shutter redevelopment agencies statewide, or force those agencies to pay a large “ransom” fee to the state.

·         Return $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 is expected to authorize the initial $200,000 payment.

·         Finalize 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, will 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.

The Turlock City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall, 156 S. Broadway, Turlock.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.