State

Riverbank to revisit sewer rate

RIVERBANK -- Another year, another chance to raise sewer bills. The City Council votes today on whether to move forward with a plan to increase residential sewer bills to $23.79 a month from $20.15.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's been just eight months since the council shot down a proposed sewer increase. The city said then that it needed to raise bills to pay for state-required upgrades at the waste-water treatment plant.

The council voted down the increase in November, saying it didn't want to burden residents during dire economic times.

If the council had approved the higher bills then, it would have saved residents and the city some dough. Last year's rate increase would have raised bills to $22.67 from $20.15.

After that increase failed, the city had to start over. Again, it hired consultants to write a study about the proposed rate increase. That study cost about $20,000, as did the previous one, said Public Works Director Dave Melilli.

Riverbank is up against an August deadline to meet state requirements at its sewer treatment plant. New laws require the city to inventory its sewage system and come up with a plan to address any shortcomings. Creating the plan and making needed repairs at the plant will cost the city an estimated $1.7 million.

The state could fine the city if it misses the deadline. But because Riverbank has taken some steps to meet the new requirements, a fine isn't likely right away, said Melilli.

Monday's vote isn't the final decision on the rate increase. A "yes" vote means the city will mail notices to property owners about the higher bills. State law gives residents the right to protest the proposed increase. If a majority of the city's property owners file written protests, the city can't raise rates.

Last fall, 31 property owners out of 6,800 filed protests against the proposed hike.

The Riverbank City Council meets today at 7 p.m. at the Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe St.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378. Follow her on Twitter, @BeeReporter.

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