Despite the city’s uninspiring record on water conservation, city leaders voted to relax outdoor watering restrictions even more than their staff had proposed.
Riverbank has missed its state-ordered conservation target by 24 percent since June – the most dismal mark, by far, posted by any Stanislaus County city. But Riverbank officials hope their $4.1 million effort to replace 7,000 aging water meters will detect leaks, and the city’s onerous wintertime watering rules expire Sunday.
So staff recommended easing restrictions a bit, but the City Council took the suggestion and ran with it.
In addition to increasing watering days from one to two per week, and resuming sprinkler use instead of hand-held hoses, Riverbank residents will face a $35 fine for a first violation – down from $100. Second violations will cost $200, and so on to $500 for a fifth violation.
$35 Fine for first-time watering violation
Also on a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Richard O’Brien absent, the council decided that people applying for hardship waivers won’t have to pay a $25 processing fee, and City Hall may refund a $25 charge when people appeal fines. Also, when wintertime restrictions return Nov. 1, people will be allowed to water after 4 p.m. instead of waiting until 7.
Until November, people can’t water from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., a step down from current rules prohibiting watering before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. Addresses with odd numbers may water on Wednesdays and Sundays, and those with even numbers, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
In other action, the council established 24 percent water and sewer discounts for poor seniors and disabled people.
$15 Monthly discount for eligible water and sewer customers
Someone with a yearly income less than $11,950, or couples making less than $13,650, could be eligible for $15 monthly discounts: $9 off a water bill, and $6 off sewer. City Hall has limited subsidies and will take applications on a first-come, first-served basis, and applicants will have to reapply every two years.
State law prevents agencies from requiring other customers to subsidize such discounts, so Riverbank will cover its losses with money collected in late fees and other fines. The city already has $64,300 in such an account.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390