Stanislaus approves deal to supply water to Monterey Park tract

Stanislaus County leaders approved a water service agreement with Ceres on Tuesday, clearing the way for the city to supply water to residents of Monterey Park tract.

Signatures from Ceres and the state are needed before the Monterey Park Tract Community Services District can hire a contractor to build a water line from Ceres to the isolated subdivision with 200 residents, six miles south of Modesto. Armed with grant funding, the district plans to bid the project and construct the improvements in the summer.

Along with a 5-mile water main, improvements will include a storage tank and pump station. Residents have used bottled water for drinking and cooking because the two wells serving the homes are contaminated with nitrates, arsenic and manganese.

A state grant pays for a company to deliver 24 gallons of bottled water for each home every other week.

“You think about the stuff that’s in the (well) water,” said Shirley Martinez, a district board member. “You don’t drink it, but you water your vegetables with it. You bathe in it. I am excited about getting good water.”

The agreement calls for the county to be co-signer for the community services district, which will be responsible for operation and maintenance costs and making water service payments to Ceres. If the small district with 49 water connections is unable to meet those obligations, the burden would fall to the county to make the payments or shut off water service.

The community services district is required to put $75,000 in a reserve account to cover water bills for more than two years. The annual cost of providing water service is about $31,000, officials said.

County Public Works Director Matt Machado said he is confident that Monterey Park tract residents will pay their water bills. “The district has a good rate structure in place, and it is managed well,” he said. “If the city has to raise rates again, they would then be concerned that the district would be able to keep up with the rate increases.”

Machado said Ceres did not want to be in the position of shutting off water service if the small district were to fall behind on payments. He said the county likely would stop water service if the district were to become insolvent.

Francisco Diaz, president of the community services district board, said the Monterey Park tract has limited resources so the county needs to be involved with the agreement.

District customers, including 47 households, a church and a community center, are paying their water bills and conserving water, Diaz said. The current rates are $67 a month, plus 50 cents for every 1,000 gallons of water use. It would cost an estimated $300 a month for customers to pay for well treatment to purify the water, he said.

The Monterey Park tract went through a Proposition 218 process before rates were increased in July 2012 to bring them in line with Ceres’ monthly charges. With the metered rate, average water use per customer has dropped 63 percent, a county report said.

In another item Tuesday, county supervisors gave the OK to hold a public auction for 13 tax-defaulted properties, including the former Indalex Inc. parcel in north Modesto. The treasurer tax-collector’s office has tentatively set the auction for March 25.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

Board of Supervisors Watch

Stanislaus County supervisors took the following action Tuesday:

▪ Heard a progress report on the county employee mentor program for schoolchildren. Last year, 193 volunteers from the county and other groups spent 1,469 hours at schools, helping students with reading and other class work. Since 1999, participants in the county program have contributed almost 24,000 hours.

▪ Approved the final report on the dissolution of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority. A distribution of assets gives $2.5 million to Modesto, $321,802 to the county and $59,622 to the Salida Fire Protection District.

▪ Approved an agreement with ASPIRAnet to provide case coordination, home-based services, child and family team meetings, and therapeutic services for foster children with emotional problems. The contract from Feb. 1, 2015, to June 20, 2016, is not to exceed $2.12 million.