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Mobilehome park turned down by city for water

A second request for the city to extend a water line to a rural mobile home park of about 47 units was turned down by the Ceres City Council on Monday.

KS Mattson Partners LP of Vacaville, owners of the Ceres West Mobilehome Park, met the same resistance a year ago when they appeared again to see if the city would run a four-inch water line down Central Avenue to the park at the southwest corner of Central and Grayson roads south of Beaver Elementary School. The park has limited options to supply drinking water to the units because water from an on-site well exceeds state limits for arsenic.

The park used about 2.6 million gallons of water, or 7,887 gallons, in 2014.

Members of the City Council remained opposed to the idea, fearing there could be collection problems for monthly service. The council also expressed fears about an agreement not being honored should the park change hands.

Mayor Chris Vierra said the issue is different from when the city extended a water line to the Monterey Park Tract southwest of Ceres. For one thing, he said Monterey Park Tract is a rural neighborhood overseen by an elected Community Services District whereas Ceres West is a for-profit business. Secondly, the county guarantees it would financially step in should there be collection problems from Monterey Park residents.

The council again expressed fear that setting a precedent would result in a flood of other requests from the rural mobile home parks surrounding Ceres which may find wells failing to meet state water quality standards.

Vierra also is concerned about the city being on the hook for the costs of operating and maintaining the 3,000 feet of water line to the park, which was approved by the county in 1969.

Alfonso Manrique of AM Consulting Engineers said the park has not much room to drill a new well and that water from a new source would likely also be contaminated with arsenic. He also noted that one solution of adding water purifiers under the sinks of all units is seen as short-term and not dependable by the state. A water treatment system is not the most cost-effective for residents of the park, which he called a "disadvantaged community."

Michelle Frederick, a coordinator with the state Water Resources Control Board appeared on behalf of the park, saying the state would like to see the connection. She said the state would offer zero-interest loans to assist in the project.

City staff, however, recommended denial of the request and said the city is not legally obligated to do so.

Councilmember Bret Durossette expressed concern about what happens when the city raises rates once the surface water system goes on line, or if the park is sold.

"Right now we still have our own water issues," said Durossette, who added he feels for the residents.

Councilman Ken Lane wondered about others who would want to tap into the line as their wells go bad.

"The first thing I can say to the mobile home park owner is go ahead and get an annexation out too and we'd be more than happy to serve you because we are, in essence, opening up a Pandora's Box here," said Vierra. He added: "My concern is that we enter an arrangement, we're stuck holding all the bag and the owner sells in a year and a half and now we're dealing with somebody else who doesn't want to take our rate increases that we're going to have for our surface water project ... And quite frankly ... how can I ask my residents to pay for the long-term operation and maintenance of that line that isn't part of the city?"

An annexation could be rejected by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), Vierra said. It would also involve an expensive environmental impact report.

The council unanimously rejected the request in a 4-0 vote. Vice Mayor Mike Kline was absent.