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Council: Can rural tract afford city water?
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Members of the Ceres City Council have mounting financial concerns about granting a request to hook up Monterey Park Tract - a remote rural community five miles southwest of Ceres - to the city of Ceres water supply.

Representatives of the Monterey Park Tract Community Service District asked the city a year ago about the possibility of the city supplying water to homes there through a 10-inch-diameter water line that would have to be constructed down Crows Landing Road. The city tentatively agreed to explore the arrangement, so as long as the tract and its residents paid for the costs.

Since that time, Monterey Park Tract Community Services District has worked toward the goal. The district received a multi-million-dollar grant has received a grant from Proposition 84 funds for the installation of connect to Ceres water supplies. The CSD board was also successful in going through the Proposition 218 protest hearing process to successfully raise water rates to pay the city for the monthly fees to supply the water.

Residents there had been paying a $35 flat monthly fee for water. The CSD raised those monthly rates to $67 plus a metered rate of 50 cents per thousand gallons to help pay for Ceres water.

But during a July 9 study session, council members expressed fears that the tract will have trouble paying for water rate increases. The city expects its own water rates to increase after a Water Master Plan is completed and Monterey Park would be subjected to the same impacts.

Ceres will delve into higher rates next month.

Ceres water rates will also increase if the city adds a blend of treated river water to the water supply.

"They (Monterey Park Tract) are looking at $100 a month right now, which is very expensive water," said City Engineer Toby Wells.

The absence of any county leaders involved in the discussions also concerns the City Council.

"The council feels the county needs to be on the hook if the Community Services District goes away," said Wells, "and they're concerned about the absence of a county representative."

The Study Session ended when the city sent CSD officials back to address concerns and illicit county participation.

Monterey Park Tract, located near Crows Landing Road and Monte Vista Avenue, consists of 71 lots and 44 homes. Wells have served the site since it was built over 40 years ago but are now producing water that exceeds state limits for nitrate and arsenic contaminants.

Last year resident Betty Yelder said she didn't know the water was bad when she moved to Monterey Park and purchases bottled water. At the time she said she supports city water service because of costs.

The city of Ceres estimates it can supply 60,000 gallons per day - or 42 gallons per minute - of water without it affecting pressure in the water system. Wells commented that the council and city staff members are "less than thrilled with the concept" of serving the county pocket of residents.

Any extension of the water line to the tract must meet the approval of LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO officials have expressed concerns that the water line will induce growth along the pipe route.