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Supes bless Ceres plan to pipe water to rural enclave
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The stage is set for Ceres to build a water line to the rural Monterey Park tract southwest of Ceres now that the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors has approved the project.

The five supervisors unanimously approved the extension on July 2 and has already been approved by the Monterey Park Tract Community Services District. The matter gets its final approval by the Ceres City Council on July 22 before the project is constructed.

Councilmembers were reluctant to extend water service outside the city limits until they were reassured that the city will not be on the line for financial shortfalls if Monterey Park tract fails to pay for service. 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 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.

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 residents fail to approve future rate increases since they have a right under Prop. 218 to protest.

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.