Farmersville raises sewer rates
Sewer rates will begin ratcheting up in Farmersville later this year in order to pay for a needed upgrade and expansion of the City’s wastewater treatment plant.
At its March 11 meeting, the Farmersville City Council held a public hearing and then voted to approve a sewer rate hike. Beginning in October 2013, sewer rates will rise from $23.75 to $31.62 per month. In 2014 they will rise to $39.14 and to $47.38 in 2015. In 2016 the rates will be $55.23 and in 2017 will be $56.61 per month. The rates will remain that high going forward.
The council held a public hearing in January and three town hall meetings in January and February. On Jan. 23, letters were sent to all residents explaining the need for the rate hikes. It is estimated that approximately 50 to 60 people attended the town hall meetings that were held in both English and Spanish.
City Manager Renee Miller gave a presentation to the City Council before the public hearing. Miller said the City’s current wastewater facility was built in 1967, expanded in 1978 and upgraded in 1987. Miller said the current facility is operating at 97% capacity. The City has already taken preliminary steps to expand its capacity by completing a preliminary engineering report, selecting alternatives to the project, providing cost estimates and California Environmental Quality Act Review. Now that new rates are in place, Miller said the City will begin the next steps of financing the project, possibly through the U.S. Department of Agriculture grants or loans, preparing final plans, specs and estimates. The project is estimated to cost about $17.6 million.
“The evidence is overwhelming that the sewer needs to be expanded,” Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Gomez said. “Nobody likes a rate increase, but I would rather fix it now then be fined by the state later, which this city cannot afford.”
Council member Larry Miller said, “Cities around us are upgrading because they know what’s coming. If we have the opportunity we need to fix it. I know it’s not easy, I myself am on a fixed income, but this has to be done.”
Ted Smalley from the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) gave a presentation on amendments to the Measure R project plan. Measure R was passed by Tulare County voters in 2006 and adds .5% to sales tax for improvements to the county’s transportation system.
The City of Farmersville is planning roundabouts at Highway 198 and at Noble and Farmersville Blvd. The City Manager said the roundabouts would save the City the cost of widening the overpass on Farmersville Boulevard. Smalley suggested altering the project to allow the City to use unexpended funds to widen Farmersville Boulevard from the roundabouts south to Walnut Avenue.
“These projects can be parallel projects,” said Smalley.
Farmersville resident Dennis Lemke said the City had more pressing needs than unnecessary roundabouts.
“We need to fix what we have,” said Lemke. “There are parts of this town that still have no side walk. If you want to fix something fix what’s already here. If you’re not for us, let us know so we can take appropriate action.”
City manager Rene Miller explained the City can either build the roundabouts at an estimated cost of $20 million or widen the overpass at an estimated cost of $30 million.
“One of those has to be done,” said Miller, “and the roundabouts were $10 million less and now we can use that savings on the Farmersville Blvd widening project.”
Dennis Smith was worried about commercial trucks using the roundabouts.
“These things are not conducive to commercial traffic,” Smith said. “It will be very difficult to run a big truck through it.”
Smalley said, “The roundabouts are designed for trucks to be able to use them. Other cities in the area have them and they work well, with exception to the roundabout in Exeter, that’s a disaster.”
The council took no action on the matter at this time.
The city council also honored the Farmersville High School boy’s soccer team which won the Division VI Valley title. Soccer head coach Michael Jordan thanked the council.
“There are assistant coaches on the team that are former players,” said Jordan. “I tell them to give back to the community that has given to them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunities the city has given these boys.”
Mayor Lionel Benavides said, “Thank you for all you’re hard work and it seems like this team has a beautiful future.”