December 13, 2012

Atwater discusses sanitation, storm preparation

ATWATER -- City officials came together Thursday afternoon to discuss the sanitation fund and storm preparation during a Public Works Committee meeting here.

Though talks about the city's garbage contract were pushed off until a future gathering, Public Works Director Dave Church said the council will soon consider rate increases to the sanitation fund, which covers garbage pickup.

The city's 10-year garbage contract expires in December, but the city has approved another contract with Allied Waste Services.

Though the contract cost isn't too far off from the previous one, Church said since the sanitation fund is losing about $60,000 a month, rates will likely have to be raised to correct the shortfall and pay back other funds that it's borrowed from.

The sanitation fund had a negative $3.7 million fund balance at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to a recent financial assessment.

The City Council could start considering rate increases in January and, if approved, they could take effect in the spring, Church said.

Sanitation rate increases could be similar to the percentages of the recent water rate increases, he noted.

Approved by the council Monday, water rates for typical users will be increased by 40 percent in February. Additional increases of 15 percent a year will continue through 2017.

Typical residents currently pay $15.49 a month for garbage service, according to a recent utility rate forecast by the city.

In addition to correcting its sanitation fund, the committee is also preparing for more stormy weather.

Recent cuts to city staff have left Atwater without a street sweeper and public works is now sweeping leaves on an intermittent basis, Church said.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Rivero said the city has managed to do some sweeping in preparation for coming rainfalls, but many parts of town are still littered with leaves from the most recent storm.

Public works is clearing storm drains and storm basins while coordinating with residents in flood-prone areas to distribute sandbags and prepare for possible road closures.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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