Under a "worst-case" scenario considered by Community Service District committees, water, sewer and security rates will be going up in the 2010-2011 budget and probably over each of the next five years. In addition to increased costs for everything from dam inspections to chemicals, the district is dealing with unexpected repairs caused by aging infrastructure and budgeting for an overhaul of the water treatment plant in 2014, when the plant turns 40.
The security rate, which is a special tax, would increase 2 percent in the proposed 2010-11 budget to fund a new full-time patrol position that would relieve the security chief of patrol duties and help address overtime issues for the department.
Garbage collection rates would remain the same after going up 6.5 percent in the 2009-10 budget. This was the only rate increase the CSD board approved last year. It resulted in a total increase of less than 1 percent to the average CSD monthly bill for water, sewer, drainage, garbage collection and security services.
At separate meetings Monday, the Improvements and Finance committees considered two alternatives for the water treatment plant under a five-year plan for capital projects. One option would retain the present filter technology and rehab the plant at an estimated cost of $1.5 million. The other alternative would upgrade the plant by installing a membrane filter system at an estimated cost of $6.5 million.
The district could finance the project by selling 30-year bonds. Under a worst-case scenario, the financing costs would be added to rate payers' monthly charge for water, according to General Manager Ed Crouse.
The CSD is budgeting $1.5 million in reserves for the rehab project.
"'Have to' is different than 'planned,'" said Crouse of the rehabilitation project. "It doesn't mean we're going to have to spend it until (Director of Field Operations Paul Siebensohn) goes out and takes a look and says, 'Okay, is this what we really need?' It could be less than $1.5 million or it could be more than $1.5 million."
Siebensohn said the rehab project would cover "all the different components" of the plant operation -- pumps, controls, valves, piping and the structure, as well as the filter system.
The $6.5 million membrane filter upgrade was supposed to be installed as part of a developer-financed expansion of the water treatment plant to meet the needs of their projects. But negotiations for the Financing and Services Agreement came to a halt when the housing market collapsed.
Speaking of the membrane technology, Crouse said, “Long term I think we want to go there. ... We’re hopeful that eventually development will turn, and there may be an opportunity to partner with the developer … If we commit to spending $6.5 million, then that money is probably off the table as far as our discussions with the developers. … I'd hate to have us go down the path of spending a million and a half bucks in 2014 and 15 … and have (the developers) show up and say, 'Look, we need to build an expanded plant.'…"
"Hopefully you want to wait as long as possible and try to do it all at once to get that economy of scale and increase capacity," Director Bob Kjome said.
The water treatment plant isn't the only big-ticket project that comes due in 2014, and it's not the only one for which the CSD expected developer participation.
The temporary permit the CSD obtained for spray fields on the Van Vleck ranch is due to expire in 2014, and permanent spray fields will need to be in place.
The spray fields provide an insurance policy against wastewater spills in extremely wet years or in the event of a treatment plant upset, Crouse said.
The fields played a role in getting rid of excess wastewater storage that occurred when the CSD couldn't deliver recycled water to the Country Club courses for much of the 2003 irrigation season because of new treatment requirements.
In the long term, the spray fields will offset reduced Country Club irrigation use during wet years and allow developers to dispose of some wastewater from their projects, Crouse said.
In addition to these large impacts on the CSD's reserves, there are ongoing expenditures for unanticipated, non-routine repairs of the community's aging infrastructure.
To address this drain, $25,000 is allotted in the draft 2010-11 budget for non-routine maintenance and repairs for the water operation. Staff hopes to increase the funding to $100,000 as time goes on.
The board will consider the five-year rate increase projections and rate increases proposed for the 2010-11 budget at its meeting this month.
The district is required to notify rate payers 45 days in advance of public hearings on proposed rate changes .
The following were also discussed at the committee meetings.
Water shortage plan looks at drought stages
A plan the CSD developed in the 1990s to define water shortage stages and implement measures to deal with them has been sent to Sacramento County and to consultants for inclusion in studies of the community's water supply. The plan was modeled on those of other water districts, and will become a component of the urban water management plan that's required when there are 3,000 units here, according to General Manager Ed Crouse.
Crouse said the stages in the plan are triggered by levels of water storage in the community's reservoirs in early spring. The CSD is allowed to divert water from the Cosumnes River from November through May and store it in Lakes Calero, Chesbro and Clementia.
“It’s really a drought contingency plan," Crouse said. He added that the conservation strategies are aimed at irrigation. The most stringent measures are reserved for Stage Five water emergencies. They would eliminate landscape irrigation and impose severe drought pricing, with fines of up to $1,000 per day for water use violations.
Pump repairs add up
Director of Field Operations Paul Siebensohn brought two repair projects to the Improvements Committee. The Main Lift South sewage pump repair will cost $10,691 and a water treatment plant pump purchase will cost $8,390, with funding to come from reserves.
Water sale turned down
A request from the Shingle Springs Rancheria to purchase up to 100,000 gallons of water a day from the CSD elicited disbelief at the Improvements Committee.
"I thought this was like an April Fool's Day joke," said Director Bob Kjome of the agenda item.
General Manager Ed Crouse said the Rancheria is pursuing a back-up water supply for Red Hawk Casino because of a law suit could threaten the contract it has with El Dorado Irrigation District.
Crouse said that according to CSD legal counsel the Rancho Murieta Community Services District can sell water for up to a year on a contract basis. But, since the water treatment plant runs at capacity during the summer months, the district could provide water for only nine months of the year. "We've essentially told the developers and the community that we're at capacity because of those three summer months," Crouse said. "It would be against our long-standing policy that we're at capacity to sell water to them. … We could make 50,000 to 100,000 bucks depending on how much we sell, (but) I don't think we could really commit."
The committee rejected the request and declined to send it on to the board for consideration.
The committee packets are available on the CSD web site.
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