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Apartment landlord asks city to pay for individual water meters

A rather boisterous out-of-town property owner blasted the Ceres City Council last week for not accommodating his request to have the city pay for water meters on each of his apartment units in light of new water consumption rules and fines.

Newark resident Frank Rosa, 84, who owns a Darrah Street apartment complex, said he wants to hold each tenant unit accountable for their water use now that the city has implemented a system of fining people for going over the targeted water use every month. He says meters are the only way to track that use but the city said meters are only installed if the owner pays for them. Currently one meter tracks all water use within six apartment units he owns.

"I request for six water meters to be on my bill," said Rosa, "because I can't see why I have to responsible for the water my tenants are using and I have no control whatsoever of what water they are using."

He said he could foresee a tenant, who is late on rent, to open the faucets and let the water run so the landlord can get socked with higher bills or worse, fines.

On Monday, City Manager Toby Wells said that Rosa really doesn't need to install meters since tenants in his units are using about half of the target set by the city. Wells noted that Rosa's complex is averaging a $45 per month water bill with his tenants paying just $9 per month. With meters on each unit, those costs would jump to $25 per month per unit.

Rosa said he spoke with Jeremy Damas, the city of Ceres' Deputy Public Works Director, and was told the cost of installing the meters would be $4,000 or $5,000.

"I'm not the one who has caused all these changes," said Rosa, who noted that when his apartments were built the city was on flat rate. Ceres bought meters in 2010 but water didn't switch over from a flat rate to metered rate until January 2011. The meters were in response to a demand from the state that meters on newer homes be installed by 2025.

Last month the city of Ceres took historic measures to enact a structure of fines if a household uses more water than a monthly use target established by the city of Ceres and guided by the state.

The targets were based on 60 gallons per person per day per household.

The city expects a household of four persons to keep their water use under 7,000 gallons per month during January, February, March, October, November and December; and no more than 27,000 gallons per month in April, May, June, July, August and September. The fine schedule is designed to keep residents under the usage levels. Those who exceed the "target" by 10 percent would get a warning. However, those who exceed by 25 percent face a $25 fine; exceeding by 75 percent, a $75 fine; and exceeding by 150 percent, a $150 fine.

The target may be adjusted for household which have more than four persons or who have larger lots. Any homeowner may speak to the city Public Works Department about raising use targets.

Mayor Chris Vierra pledged to talk to Rosa.

Wells suggests that Rosa and others always have the option of installing a "sub meter," which allows the tracking of each unit's use but which is not read by the city. He said it is a much less costly option.