City sewer rate set to increase
by Jon Mendelson
Apr 19, 2013 | 2797 views | 10 10 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tracy residents will soon pay $3 more for their monthly sewer bills, unless enough ratepayers protest the planned increase.

During a workshop Tuesday, April 16, the Tracy City Council unanimously agreed with a city staff assessment that rates must be increased to pay for upgrades to the city’s wastewater disposal system.

A proposal given to council members by Steve Bayley, the deputy director of public works for the city, showed that single-family homes will pay $34 a month, up from $31 a month — a 9.68 percent increase. It would be the first hike in sewer fees since 2006.

In July 2015, the monthly rate will rise to $37.35, another 9.85 percent bump, he said.

Rates for multifamily, commercial and industrial users will be hiked by a similar percentage, according to Bayley.

Notices announcing the proposed increases will be sent to ratepayers as part of the sewer bill for May, and residents will have 45 days to protest the notice before the City Council can make the proposed change permanent.

The rate hike will be automatically blocked if a majority of ratepayers send written opposition to the city, according to Proposition 218, a taxpayer protection initiative passed by California voters in 1996.

Bayley said the increase is needed to build a pipeline between the sewage treatment plant and Old River north of Tracy, where the city discharges its treated wastewater. The existing pipeline was built in 1976 with materials that are now obsolete, Bayley said.

If the pipeline ruptured, the city would face fines for environmental damage and the possibility of not being able to offload its effluent.

“We don’t want to be a polluter, we don’t want to pay fines, we don’t want to face lawsuits,” Bayley said before the meeting.

The existing pipeline, which carries about 9 million gallons per day, is also nearing its capacity, Bayley said. The new line will carry 16 million gallons a day, giving the city redundancy in an emergency and enough capacity to accommodate future development.

The project — when coupled with a planned desalinization facility that will dilute the city’s discharged wastewater to help it meet state salinity standards — will cost the city about $25 million, he said.

“It’s very unfortunate it costs $3 extra per month, but that’s what we estimate the true cost of services is,” Bayley said. “We wouldn’t look at raising rates if we didn’t need to look at building this project.”

He also said the increases were calculated so future development would pay an “equitable” share. Current ratepayers would use an estimated 56 percent of the 16-million-gallon pipeline, he said, so they should pay 56 percent of the cost of the new pipe.

“We try to charge everybody in proportion to what they discharge,” he said.

During the workshop, however, lawyer Steve Nicolaou was one of two Tracy residents who said the city wouldn’t need to raise rates so much if it hadn’t approved a developer agreement months earlier with The Surland Cos.

The agreement grants the city $10 million in cash from Surland to build an aquatics center, while Surland gets wastewater treatment capacity rights worth a city-estimated $5,453,600, in addition to its rights to build the Ellis residential development off Linne and Corral Hollow roads and other concessions.

Nicolaou said it appeared the city bartered away money that should have gone to the sewer fund in exchange for cash to build a swim center, sticking taxpayers with the shortfall.

“When stuff like this happens, whether it’s intentional or not,” he said, waving a checkbook for effect, “it fosters that perception and that skepticism in people’s minds that government will always do what’s right for the big guy and the little guy will have to pull out their checkbook.”

Bayley said during the workshop that, had the Ellis deal not gone through, the ratepayers’ share of the proposed $3 increase might have been smaller “by about a buck and a third, I think.”

Later in the evening, during the City Council’s regular meeting, City Manager Leon Churchill said any talk of a $5.5 million giveaway from the sewer fund was “misleading.”

“There was no cash outlay or transfer of funds relating to the Ellis project,” he said, reading from handwritten notes. “The outfall pipe has to be constructed to meet both regulatory requirements and increased capacity. Existing ratepayers and growth will pay for that capital improvement to the degree each respectively benefits.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or

At a glance

• WHAT: City Council special workshop

• WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16

• WHERE: City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza

• DETAILS: Mayor Brent Ives, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel and council members Charles Manne, Robert Rickman and Nancy Young were present.

council roundup.

Master moves forward

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday, April 16, to move forward with several master plans that lay out how the city will provide public services for the next 30 years.

Specific expenditures and projects detailed by the master plans must still be approved individually by the council, according to Mayor Brent Ives.

The Public Safety Master Plan envisions constructing four new fire stations, building a new police station somewhere along 11th Street in the western portion of the city and adding onto the police station in Civic Center Plaza.

Growth will require expanding the Boyd Service Center, Tracy Community Center, City Hall and other facilities, including an aquatics center, according to the Public Facilities Master plan.

Other master plans described how much parkland is required for each added resident, as well as storm drainage and transportation plans.

Developer fees will pay for the infrastructure outlined in the plans.

Council clarifies goals

Also on Tuesday, the City Council solidified four strategic goals for the city — create a safe community, provide an outstanding quality of life for residents, enhance the capability of local government and build a strong, diverse economic base.

The aims were discussed by the council during a February retreat. City staff members then developed concrete steps to achieve the goals during the next two years, according to City Manager Leon Churchill.

The staff added, with council permission, a goal to “position Tracy as the preferred location for start-up companies and entrepreneurial investment.”

Churchill said it was a reaction to a March 27 speech by Vivek Wadhwa, who said Tracy has an opportunity to become a “satellite Silicon Valley.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or

At a glance

• WHAT: City Council regular meeting

• WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16

• WHERE: City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza

• DETAILS: Mayor Brent Ives, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel and council members Charles Manne, Robert Rickman and Nancy Young were present.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 20, 2013
Ornley_Gumfudgen. In response to what you said about being lucky to have a Government that gives us the right to at least voice our opinion, well let me tell you a little something. Speaking to what I know factually, by the time you take the time to go to a city council meeting to voice your opinion, the decisions have already been made. So yes, in our country we have a forum to speak of our opinion, however, your opinion is not taken in to consideration because the decisions have already been made. Mr Churchill and his group that call themselves the City Council have long been bought and sold! I have been here a very long time, and there is old many that runs the city here. Remember, money is the root of all evil, and everyone has a price!
April 19, 2013
One Meeting-

Free sewer to Serpa for 2200 homes- Cost 5.5 m.

City gets 16 acres and 10 million dollars for the swim center. City has 2 years to build Les Serpa Swim Center or He gets the within two years Serpa gets the land back and doesn't have to pay pay the full 10m.

Special meeting two weeks later (One hour before regular City Council Meeting)

Staff advises sewer plant at capacity and has been for 2 years. Upgrade needed,20% increase in costs to residents/businesses. City admits that giveaway to Serpa cost taxpayers $1.30 of the $3.00 increase proposed each month.


Mayor and Churchill want to do away with Measure A growth limits.

Okay, gotta ask, if they knew the sewer plant was at capacity before they ok'd the Ellis project why did they approve the project, give Serpa free hook up and then pass the costs to taxpayer and future developers?

It appears the Council and Churchill are the best City leaders money can buy. They ok'd this mess after trying to hide it and now, we all pay unless we raise an objection. Time to OBJECT!!

April 19, 2013
If the city didn't "comp" the Ellis project $5.5m in sewer rights we wouldn't even have this discussion. Ives and his water park. Sheesh, it's something that been on his mind since I moved here.

And Churchill said "City Manager Leon Churchill said any talk of a $5.5 million giveaway from the sewer fund was “misleading".

And then he said "Existing ratepayers and growth will pay for that capital improvement to the degree each respectively benefits".

Seems to me they're relying on taxpayers to pay the way for sewer construction when they could have just had Surland/Ellis pay their way.

Kind of makes you wonder who's running the city.

April 19, 2013
So if we hadn't given free waste water to Ellis our sewer rate increase would have been only $1.66 a month instead of $3.00 a month. So every water ratepayer is paying $1.33 a month to subsidize the Ellis Project. Just like the Tracy City Council let the residents pay for future development.

Thank you Steve Bayley for telling the truth.
April 19, 2013
I agree 100% with you Ornley. That is why we should cherish the rights we have. However, from what the article says, out of a town of 80,000 people, only 2 people bothered to show up and voice their concerns and call the City out on the issue. That is pretty pathetic. Makes you wonder whether people just don't care because they just don't, or because they are apathetic because they figure their voices don't matter. Whether you agree or disagree with what the 2 people said at the meeting, you gotta give them credit for speaking out on the issue, whether pro or con. Wish more people in this town would do that.
April 19, 2013

Yeah I do give em credit an wish thair were more.

Actually I don't thank people intend ta get this way, it just sort of happens as they busy themselves in th day ta day goins on an all th other distractions out thair that tend ta wear us down with th continual an endless drone in th overall background of our society.

But thairs another side ta th issue ya have just touched on.

Who do ya thank gets Council's attention an gives em th power ta do what thar doin? Is it th two who steadfastly show up an express thair views or is it those who don't show up ta express thair views when Council is decidin such matters? I am of th opinion that thair gonna listen ta th guy standin in front of them rather than attempt ta listen ta th hordes of people who never show up until th midnight hour of when th decision is ta take place after months of work an then expectin Council ta hear thair complaints. It's a whole lot more than simply electin these people. Fer em ta really do th job correctly th citizens need to continually be in thair face tellin em what they want. If th majority of th citizens don't play this game then it's th minority that does an th majority ain't gonna be happy with th overall outcome.
April 19, 2013

I don't get it. Would ya rather have a local government that didn't respond an th citizens weren't heard at all?

Our government is a participatory government whair th citizens SHOULD be actively involved an tellin th government what they want instead of just sittin around an carpin about everythang th government does without liftin one finger ta do somethang about it.

Relish th fact that ya gotta right ta protest ta force em ta change thair minds. Thair are other places in this world whair th people who make up th citizenry are not given th opportunity ta say anythang about thair government. Be thankful ya don't live thair by an accident of birth.
April 19, 2013
I love this wonderful city council. So if enough people protest the increase, they will block it, but if not, the increase will happen. How many people will take the time to actually protest it even thought they don't want the increase! It takes time to write a letter which most won't do, which the city knows people won't take the time. I thought the city council worked for the citizens of Tracy. How about the city make some cut backs so they don't have to use the typical "tax and spend" tactic on it's citizens. Perhaps the city is unaware of the fact that there are many that are unemployed, under employed, cut back on hours and just plain struggling. Oh, that would assume the city actually even cares about any of that. Typical nickel and dime you to death, 3 dollars here, 5 dollars there, and on and on. Find a better solution and start working for the people you represent!!!
April 19, 2013
I agree with you enough is enough Im for the block if that what it takes if a petition is started for the block I'm sure that a lot of residents would sign I would be the first to sign

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