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Water rate increase on tap for 2017
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City of Turlock residents will be paying 15 percent more for water starting Jan. 1, should the City Council affirm the scheduled rate increase at their Tuesday meeting.

The 2017 water rate increase is part of a series of six increases adopted by the City Council in 2014. The increases were developed to generate sufficient revenues for current operating costs and also to help fund the construction of a new surface water treatment plant.

According to a staff report prepared by the Municipal Services Department, water revenues were down 1.6 percent for 2014-15 and down 4.9 percent for 2015-16. The recent drought had an impact on demand, according to the report, but expenditures were reduced to stay within revenues.

The proposed 15 percent rate increase may be a hard pill to swallow for some residents — especially the 600 who submitted protest ballots in 2014 when the series of rate increases were first proposed — and City staff reports that even higher increases will be necessary to finish the surface water treatment plant project.

The cost estimate of the project, which will take water out of the Tuolumne River and treat it for human consumption, was $182 million in 2008, with Turlock's share of the project at 52 percent or $95 million. However, the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (comprised of the cities of Turlock and Ceres) recently contracted a consultant and an updated cost estimate is expected in 2017 — and with it probable cost increase.

The City of Turlock is committed to the surface water treatment project as an alternative to its current all-groundwater supply. Groundwater has been shown to be a diminishing resource, with long-term uncertainty, according to the staff report.

Also on Tuesday, the Council is expected to accept a report on the implementation of the City's Collision Reduction Strategy and consider adopting the Highway 99 Wildflower Beautification pilot project.

The Turlock City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.