DINUBA – The city’s public works department is seeking out state funding in order to perform a condition assessment on Dinuba’s sewer collection system and wastewater treatment plant, and ultimately make improvements to the sewer system all together.
Dinuba City Council approved Resolution No. 2023-37 at its meeting July 11, allowing the city to submit a financial assistance application to the State Water Resources Control Board that would help fund a study looking at the current and future needs of the sewer and wastewater systems in Dinuba. The city will request a grant of up to $500,000 from the control board’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program for wastewater planning.
“Looking at ways to improve our system is an on-going effort,” George Avila, Dinuba interim public works director, said. “As infrastructure ages, failures are inevitable, so we are always trying to be proactive to ensure the system continues to be in good working order.”
According to a staff report submitted to city council, the city would like to conduct a condition assessment of the sewer collection system, make improvements to the wastewater treatment plant and explore the feasibility of connecting septic tank customers to the city’s sewer system.
The grant program provides disadvantaged communities with the resources to prepare engineering and environmental assessment documentation. This would then put Dinuba in a good position to apply for further funding to aid in construction of the identified system improvements.
Avila said the grant program is brand new, and the city has been told the process for awarding grants is not very fast. Assuming the city receives a grant award, the funding agreement could take 12 to 15 months.
Part of the assessment process will be to look at connecting septic tank customers to the city, because California is encouraging all local jurisdictions to connect septic tank customers with city sewers “as a safer and more sustainable alternative,” Avila said. This should not be a concern, however, as most Dinuba residents are connected already and the wastewater treatment plant has enough capacity to add those who are not.
With the condition assessment, Avila said the city anticipates finding needs in the sewer collection process and the wastewater treatment plant.
“As time goes on new technologies and newer methods of handling sewer waste are developed, so we anticipate some of these being recommended for the city’s system,” he said.
The desire for a condition assessment comes at the same time as a proposal to raise water and sewer utility rates in Dinuba.
At the June 27 council meeting, city staff presented the findings of a recent water and sewer rate study conducted by Willdan Financial Services. The study found that if the city does not raise its utility rates, the water and sewer services will be operating in a deficit by next year.
Out of three proposed options for rate increases, the city council chose Tier 3A, which, if approved by residents, would raise rates enough to maintain current service levels, add utility employee positions and fund capital maintenance and new capital improvement plan projects. The chosen tier would increase a medium water user’s monthly bill by $11.64.
The capital improvement plan projects funded by rate increases would include construction of three water main replacements and five sewer main replacements, according to a staff report given at the June 27 council meeting. Additionally, they would fund an annual wastewater treatment station maintenance program and a steel water pipe replacement program.
Other tiers proposed to the council had smaller rate increases but would not allow for any capital improvement plan projects and, at the lowest tier, would only maintain current service levels.
Dinuba utility rates were last raised in 2018 for water and in 2017 for sewer. The report provided to council stated that the city has postponed raising rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic and since the last rate increase the consumer price index increased by 14.7%, creating “a significant impact to available cash reserves.”
Maintenance projects were also postponed during the pandemic, resulting in increased incidents of water leaks and sewer main failures, the staff report said.
Proposed utility rate increases cannot take effect until the city completes all steps required by California Proposition 218, known as the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act.”
On June 27, city council directed city staff to prepare the required notice of proposed rate increases to all utility customers. After the notice is sent, there will be a 45-day period where residents can voice opposition to the increase. At the end of that period, city council will hold a public hearing and approve the rate increase if there is no majority opposition from residents.
If approved, new rates are anticipated to take effect Oct. 2.