TUD fee cutback on docket

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

PUBLIC MEETING: Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors, 2 p.m. Tuesday, 18885 Nugget Blvd., Sonora.

The Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors on Tuesday will again consider lowering water and sewer connection fees for developers.

The board is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. to hear a request from Ron Kopf and Mark Banks, who both represent the business and building industry, to review and potentially update the sections of the district's water and sewer rules that set the connection fees.

District officials have recommended that the board first form a committee to assist staff in determining the best course of action to take on the issue in the future, according to meeting documents and TUD General Manager Pete Kampa.

The committee would educate various stakeholders from the business, agriculture, government and building industries on the different factors determining the fees, Kampa said.

"We would identify the different groups that might be interested in this financial matter and get those people together to help us better understand the issue and ensure that we're hitting the mark as far as any changes to the connection fees goes," he said.

The issue notably came up last year when the developer of a proposed 80-unit complex at Parrotts Ferry and Union Hill roads in Columbia asked that the fees be cut in half for the project.

The developer has asked TUD multiple times since then for a discount on the fees, which would add up to between $700,000 and $800,000.

Those advocating cuts say it would spur economic growth. Opponents say the cost would be passed on to the already budget-strapped district's customers.

"There should be some robust conversation about what the people representing the building and business industry might be thinking about these fees and what might be favorable to them," Kampa said.

Also Tuesday, the board is scheduled to review a draft of the Tuolumne-Stanislaus Integrated Regional Water Management Plan that has been more than six years in the making.

The district and Calaveras County Water District began working together in early 2007 to form the plan, which Kampa said would provide TUD access to state funding it wouldn't be eligible for otherwise.

Kampa said the plan needs to be approved by TUD directors by August in order to qualify for the funding.

According to meeting documents, the district has already submitted an application for funding of a proposed $1.7 million project to improve water quality, wetlands habitat and storage capacity at Phoenix Lake.

At Tuesday's meeting, TUD directors will also vote on setting a special meeting for 5:30 p.m., July 30, to interview the four applicants for an open position on the board.

The Union Democrat
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