October 25, 2013

Saturday Shorts: Numbers -- some good, some not so

For the last Saturday of the month, we tend to focus on numbers, and there are some positive ones to share as we wind down the 10th month of 2013, with 59 days until Christmas.

For the last Saturday of the month, we tend to focus on numbers, and there are some positive ones to share as we wind down the 10th month of 2013, with 59 days until Christmas.

25 percent – the amount that housing prices in Stanislaus County last month were up from a year ago. The median price – half above and half below – was $180,000, as reported by J.N. Sbranti in Thursday’s Bee. Another sign of life for the local housing market: Florsheim Homes is restarting its home development in northeast Modesto. But the Stockton company isn’t moving quickly; construction on the 114 houses won’t start before next year.

About 100 – the number of people who currently work at Flowers Baking Co., making Sara Lee rolls and buns, and the firm is going to add a second production line at its Mariposa Avenue plant. No firm figure on how many jobs that will add, but dozens sounds promising.

1,036,710 acre-feet – The amount of water that was being stored at Don Pedro Reservoir as of early this week, which is 1 million acre-feet less than its maximum capacity and about 160,000 acre-feet below the storage level normal for this time last year, according to the water report provided at this week’s Modesto Irrigation District board meeting.

To provider a little bigger/longer sense of the situation, MID staff reported that the reservoir level is expected to be at 731 feet elevation as of this coming week. It’s low, but it has been that low 10 times in the past 40 years.

?? – that’s not a typo. Although the MID board adopted the 2014 budget this past week, the deliberations did not include a question on the minds of many area electrical customers: Will there be a rate increase next year and, if so, how much of one? We’ve prodded the MID about this in the past, especially in 2009, when it announced a public hearing on rate increases, without stating what the proposed increases would be. The following two years, in 2010 and 2011, the MID held ratepayer meetings in late summer to explain the rate situation.

The MID budget is in good shape, and it appears there will not be an electrical rate increase next year. But the board won’t talk about it until mid-December, when the three new directors who win in the Nov. 5 election are seated.

To recap previous rate increases: No rate increases from 1996 to 2000, followed by significant increases every year since, ranging from 10 percent in 2001, 2003 and 2008, to only 2 percent in 2007. For 2013, the rate actually dropped 1 percent because green energy cost less than expected.

The MID board has to hold public hearings but otherwise the electrical customers get no say in what happens to their bills. Irrigation customers, on the other hand, have the opportunity to submit a protest vote. You’ll remember that very few farmers objected to a proposed 10 percent increase in water rates for the season just ended, but the MID board – in a sign of ongoing dysfunction – didn’t raise the rate anyway.

67,000 – the combined number of gallons of raw sewage spilled by the Groveland Community Services District system into Pine Mountain Lake and Rattlesnake Creek, the latter of which drains into Lake Don Pedro, since 2010. The district agreed to pay a $375,000 fine to the state.

19,000 – roughly the number of by-mail ballots returned out of 125,000 distributed, or 15 percent, as of Friday for the Nov. 5 election in Stanislaus County. In a similar election in November 2011, only 50,982 of the county’s 227,278 registered voters cast ballots, and 38,989 of them were by mail.

1995 – was the last year that University of the Pacific held a traditional homecoming, until this month. The Record of Stockton reported on the festivities, which included a parade on the Miracle Mile, entertainment and sporting events – though not football, which was discontinued in 1995 – and lots of friendly conversations. The Record commented: “The university may not have a football team to cheer on fall Saturdays, but last weekend the school, its students, alum and supporters showed they still have much to cheer about.”

15,000+ students have benefited from the Stanislaus Partners in Education’s Occupational Olympics & Career Exposition over the past 28 years. The program gives students the opportunity to show off their knowledge and skills.

16 days – the length of the partial federal government shutdown that resulted in a 16-day extension for public comment on the Altamont Corridor Express plan that would include bringing the trains into Modesto, Turlock and Merced. The question at hand is the scope of the environmental review that needs to be done. For more info, go to http://www.acerail.com/About/Public-Projects/ACEforward.

67 –Tuesday’s predicted daytime high temperature, dropping to 41 overnight. Yes, folks, it is fall after all.

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