Kevin Valine

City considering easing water restrictions

Modesto is looking at easing its outdoor watering restrictions in May, allowing people to water their lawns and other landscaping twice a week. The city has limited outdoor watering to one day a week since December.

The city had been allowing outdoor watering three days a week until May 2015, when it reduced it to two days a week because of the drought, which is now in its fifth year.

The restrictions came as Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction in urban water use from June 2015 through February, though the state has extended the reductions through October. The reductions are based on 2013 water use.

Though rain and snow returned in the past several months, it was not enough to make a huge dent in the drought. Modesto Utilities Director Larry Parlin has said California is in a new normal for water, and the restrictions and stepped-up efforts to conserve are not going away.

He said Modesto is looking at increasing its incentives to encourage water customers to conserve as well as its patrols that look for businesses and residents who are wasting water or violating the restrictions by watering on the wrong day or at the wrong time. These could be rolled out as part of the city’s 2016-17 budget year, which starts July 1, and would require City Council approval.

In other city news, the U.S. flag should by flying in front of the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in west Modesto on Friday for the first time in several years thanks to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 684 and Collins Electrical.

There will be a flag-raising ceremony at 1 p.m. at the center, 601 N. Martin Luther King Drive, and the public is invited. Mayor Ted Brandvold and council members are expected to attend.

The IBEW and Collins stepped up to fix the flagpole at the city-owned-and-maintained facility for free after longtime west Modesto resident and Navy veteran George Russell complained to the City Council about a month ago that his requests to parks and recreation officials over several years to fix the pole had been ignored. Those officials are no longer with the city.

Russell also was upset that Modesto could appropriate $75,000 to provide meals and hotel rooms to the Amgen Tour of California for one day in May, even though the professional cyclists will not be racing here, and yet he could not get the city to repair the pole.

He reiterated those points at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Russell has said the flagpole is missing the rope that raises and lowers the flag. He also has said vandals destroyed it, and he did not want it replaced because he feared that would happen again. He asked the city to permanently mount the flag and install a light that shines on it at night.

IBEW business representative Bobby Stutzman said volunteers raised the cleat used to secure the rope from eye level on the 25-foot pole to 11 feet, making it difficult for vandals to damage it but allowing the flag to be lowered to half-staff. Volunteers also mounted a light at the top of the pole and hooked up a power source for the light. The light has a sensor that turns it on at night and off during the day. He estimated the cost to fix the flagpole at $2,500.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316