Public hearing on rate increases set for Tuesday in Livingston

The City Council on Tuesday night will hold a public hearing about proposed water- and sewer-rate increases, as well as consider adopting an ordinance that charges fees to developers in order to fund regional transportation projects.

The city released three water- and sewer-rate-increase scenarios earlier this year, with notices being sent to residents on April 4. If 50.1 percent of the 3,000 property owners affected by the increases protested them by writing letters, the city cannot raise the rates.

The number of protest letters will be tallied before the start of the meeting, city officials said.

Four out of five council members – known as the supermajority – must vote in favor of the hikes Tuesday night to move the process forward. Then a second public hearing will be held, requiring the same number of votes.

City leaders said the rate hikes will fund repairs and improvements to infrastructure of existing water wells, including installing filtration systems to deal with water contaminants such as arsenic. The increases also offset negative balances in the city’s enterprise funds, build a reserve and help pay off debt.

The council will also consider adopting an ordinance to include Livingston in the Regional Transportation Impact Fee program, administered by the Merced County Association of Governments. The RTIF program collects fees from developers of new commercial, residential and industrial projects, which are used to fund transportation projects in the region.

The city of Livingston has never paid into the program, but Merced County as well as the cities of Merced, Atwater and Gustine have participated since it began in 2005. Los Banos is participating in the fees for residential developments only.

The city of Dos Palos pulled out of participating in the regional transportation fees program. The amount of collected fees stands at $9.6 million as of March, said MCAG spokeswoman Lori Flanders.

If approved by the council, developers would pay $3,115 per unit for a residential, single-family dwelling and $1,892 for a residential, multifamily dwelling unit. Fees for retail commercial development would be measured by the square footage and range from $2,780 to $12,000.

Flanders said the collected fees pay for transportation projects such as the Bellevue Road connection to Highway 99 from the new interchange to Atwater, the Mission Avenue improvement from Highway 59 to 99, and the Atwater-Merced Expressway project, among others.

In other business, the council will look at establishing a Department of Public Safety and separating the roles of the fire chief and police chief. Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra said the current police chief, Ruben Chavez, has been wearing both hats.

“It’s separating the police and fire to allow each department to have their own chief,” Samra said. “The Fire Department was already running on its own, but this ordinance clarifies the language. It’s not going to make a difference to residents.”

The Livingston City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chamber, 1416 C St.