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City poised to provide water to rural tract
park tract
A water line will be constructed from Ceres to the Monterey Park Tract southwest of the city once the Board of Supervisors and the Ceres City Council sign onto the idea, which is expected soon.

Water service will be extended to the Monterey Park tract in rural Ceres now that county officials have reassured Ceres city officials that there are enough safeguards to financially protect the city against unpaid service.

In March members of the Ceres City Council were reluctant to extend water service to the small rural neighborhood community located five miles from southwest Ceres because the county was not insulating Ceres from financial loss should the Monterey Park Community Services District default on paying what it owes to the city. The county came back with an amended agreement to stand behind the Monterey Park Tract for 15 years. At the end of the 15 years the city and county and CSD could discuss how the agreement is working and maybe take the county out of the picture.

"If at any point they stopped paying we have $75,000 which is about three years' worth of service," said Mayor Chris Vierra.

The council directed the agreement to be processed and voted on soon. The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors must approve the agreement first.

The tract, built in 1965 but served by a Community Services District since 1984, currently uses water pumped from a ground well. The district was formed because the individual wells that served the area were shut down for problems with nitrates. One well is in service now but the CSD board is concerned that the local ground water supply is not meeting state water quality standards. Residents have to drink and cook with bottled water because of high arsenic content.

The board originally asked for service from the city of Turlock, which is farther away, but was turned down.
Under the proposal, Ceres would supply up to 60,000 gallons of water per day for use in the rural enclave through a pipeline to be built. That quantity would allow the 44-home subdivision to add up to 11 more homes on lots already approved. The city would bill Monterey Park Tract for water service at a rate one and half times what Ceres residents pay, or $1,800 per month based on average use of 700,000 gallons per month. If 60,000 per day if used, the tract would pay $4,300 per month.

The construction of the water line and a water tank is possible because of a $2.2 million grant awarded the CSD by the state under Proposition 84. Wells said the city would charge a connection fee of $7,628 for each of the 50 homes. It would also charge a connection on about 10 undeveloped lots, with the money kept aside as a cushion to cover problems that arise, including inability to pay for the service.

Hooking up to Ceres water will be costly to tract residents who now pay approximately $75 per month. Rates will climb to about $95 per month on Ceres city water.

The city, said Vierra, remains concerned about what happens if Monterey Park Tract residents fail to approve future rate increases since they have a right under Prop. 218 to protest increases. Vierra said with 44 households he could envision future times in which over 50 percent protest increases imposed by Ceres, especially when the city goes to the more expensive co-mingled surface/ground water system. Vierra said the city will make it clear to the CSD that the city will not supply service if its residents vote against increases until Prop. 218.