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City seeks to increase water, sewer connection fees to new houses
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A move to increase the Public Facilities Fees (PFF) on all new construction in Ceres has been delayed to later this month.

The Ceres City Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the increase on Monday, June 24 but did not get into a discussion since it was learned that the Building Industry Association of Central California had not received notification about the hearing. The group is the area's largest group representing developers which could protest the measure.

The hearing was continued to 7 p.m. on Monday, July 22 at the Council Chambers in the Ceres Community Center, 2701 Fourth Street.

The PFF hike is proposed on the heels of the water and sewer rate increases enacted on all Ceres residents. The increases will help the city pay for needed infrastructure projects to keep both water and sewer systems functioning well into the future.

The city is proposing into increase the water connection fee from $4,985.98 to $6,697 on each new single-family house. The fee is arrived at by considering that $101.5 million in future growth projects are needed, divided by the expected 15,161 future units.

Each multiple-family unit will be charged a $3,576 connection fee for water.

Under the new increases, Ceres would be the highest water connection fee among a peer group of neighboring cities. Turlock has a charge of $4,557, Modesto charges $5,436 and Manteca $3,685.

The sewer connection fee for a single-family home is now $2,022 and will more than double to $5,960 if the city gets its way.

With the increases, a developer would have to pay the city a total of $26,282 for the Public Facilities Fee to build one house. The fees also help the city pay for police, fire protection, parks, community facilities, transportation, storm drainage and information technology.

After three years of work, the city of Ceres adopted the master plans in April to build the future of its sewer and water systems.

The master plans correct deficiencies in the city's sewer and water systems which have been stressed, said City Engineer Toby Wells. They also plan for future growth of Ceres. The plans will be implemented in three phases that include beyond 2022 and the full build-out of the 1997 General Plan.

Over $200 million in capital projects will be needed to ensure that the city of Ceres can continue to provide enough good, clean water for existing and future customers. Needed improvements include additional wells and pipelines, expensive wellhead treatment to remove contaminants, constructing a 2-million-gallon water tank at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park and two new reservoirs on the west side where new development is to take place.

To help pay for those improvements, the city council approved a series of water and sewer rate increases. Sewer service increased Monday from $43.99 per month to $44.99, and will increase to $49.33 in July 2014, $52.96 in July 2015, $56.30 in July 2016 and $59.03 per month in July 2017.

Water rates in Ceres also increased starting this month. The city raised the volumetric charge from 72 cents per 1,000 gallons to $1 -- and will charge $2 per 1,000 gallons by the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Currently the average Ceres household was paying $31.28 per month for water service based on a current $20.42 per month service charge and $10.86 per month in volumetric charges based on use of the average use of 15,820 gallons per month. Under the rate adjustment, the average Ceres household will pay $35.57 per month starting this month, $39.93 in July 2014, $44.18 in July of 2015, $47.24 in July of 2016 and $50.43 in July of 2017-18.

The plan includes a list of technical improvements that include new and replacement wells, new water and sewer lines, new water storage tanks and sewer lift stations. It also calls for improvements to the Ceres sewer plant and upsizing the system to boost capacity of treated effluent to the Turlock sewer plant from 2 million gallons per day to 6 million gallons per day. Ceres also plans to ultimately increase capacity of the sewage piped to the Jennings Road Modesto treatment plant.

Groundwater only plan would not meet the city's needs. Expansion of the Ceres wastewater treatment plant would be two times the cost of the alternative.