Galt City Council at its Nov. 15 meeting voted in favor of proposed rates for water and wastewater services. It also considered updates to the building and fire codes.

Water, wastewater rates

Public Works Director Mike Selling said the changes to water and wastewater rates have been designed to ensure the city’s long-term financial stability and to account for capital improvements and outstanding debt. He said city staff focused on making the rates equitable and complying with community outreach requirements.

The water rates involve two components. The base monthly rate is a flat fee determined by the size of the pipe connecting a customer to the water mains. Added to that is a charge based on the customer’s usage.

In a new feature for Galt, the rates create two tiers of residential usage rates. Selling said this is in response to inquiries about introducing low-use rates.

The tiers mean that all residential users pay a lower rate for the first 900 cubic feet, or about 6,700 gallons, of water they use per month. Any water that a customer uses after that is charged at a higher rate.

Under the plan, rates will increase incrementally through 2027. For customers with a 1-inch connection, the base rate is projected to rise from $21.29 per month now to $30.31 per month in 2027.

The current residential usage rate, which will become the higher-cost tier in the new system, will increase from $1.22 per 100 cubic feet to $1.75 in 2027. The lower tier, for the first 900 cubic feet of water used, will start at 69 cents next year and rise to 96 cents.

In wastewater, the residential monthly rate will grow from $78.28 to $103.21 by 2027.

Selling noted that the city has taken out two loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to improve its wastewater infrastructure, and the payments on the loans are factored into the rates. He continued that the charges for the loans decrease as the city grows and can spread the cost over more customers.

However, Habib Isaac, a managing partner with IB Consulting, told the council members that the water and wastewater rates do not account for any unbuilt developments. He said that, if the city does grow, it is possible to raise rates less than planned; but if Galt sets lower rates expecting growth, and it doesn’t happen, the city could be left with a funding shortage.

Council Member Rich Lozano said he has heard questions from community members about the city’s water and wastewater capacity for new residential developments. Selling said the city draws a relatively small amount of water from the region’s aquifer, particularly compared to surrounding cropland.

“Even with the amount of houses that are on the books right now, … there is no significant concern at this point in time for meeting the demands of that development,” Selling said.

He added that the wastewater treatment plant can be expanded to handle up to 6 million gallons of sewage per day. It currently takes in an average of 1.8 million gallons per day, and Selling didn’t anticipate needing to expand for several years.

Members of the public had the opportunity to protest the rates; a majority of customers, about 4,000, would have had to file protests to block the rates. The city received only a dozen protests each for the water and wastewater rates.

Council adopted the new rates by a 4-0 vote. Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu was absent.

Building code updates

Council advanced two sets of changes to the municipal code, bringing it in line with California building and fire standards.

Building Official Zak Karver described changes designed to ensure various building features are safe. The most notable changes regulate home battery systems and electric water heaters, as well as requirements for new development to allow aging-in-place modifications.

To make it easier for people to live in the same house as they age, new homes will need to have a bathroom door and a bedroom door on the ground floor that are at least 36 inches wide. Walls near toilets and showers will need to contain infrastructure to support the addition of grab bars.

Fire Marshal Lantz Rey with Cosumnes Fire Department spoke about changes related to fire safety. He said the standards also address home energy storage systems. They also take into account lithium-ion batteries and emergency radio.

Council voted in favor of both sets of changes, 4-0. They will likely return for final approval on a future consent calendar.

Other business

Council advanced an emergency ordinance related to accessory dwelling units. The city had been in the process of instituting its own regulations when the state passed a new law; unless the city complies with the new requirements by year’s end, the local rules will be nullified, so the process had to restart with the changes.

Additionally, Council approved salaries and other provisions for city employees not represented by a union. Professional or confidential employees, and midmanagement, get a minimum 2% salary increase over the current level in 2022 and 2023, with additional increases for certain job classifications. Department heads will receive a single 2% increase in a one-year agreement. Each department head will receive a one-time payment of $2,500 funded by American Rescue Plan Act monies, and other unrepresented staff will get $2,000 each.