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Water Fee Vote Still on Horizon for Fresno



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The Fresno city council took a complicated issue like water storage and made it complicateder. Coming back after a three month delay on how much to charge developers for water fees on new home construction projects, the council last Thursday (March 23) asked for another two weeks.

At times during the 2-and-a-half hour presentation and debate (wrapped around a 90 minute lunch break), council seemed confused. Public utilities director Tommy Esqueda, who crafted the plan, seemed frustrated that his explanations of why a $4246 fee per home wasn’t getting through to council.

The home building industry was frustrated too. Led by Josh Peterson of Wathen Castanos and Darius Assemi of Granville Homes, they too had issues with the way the plan was presented.

[editor’s note: Granville is the corporate owner of GV Wire]

The city wants to prepare for an anticipated increase in population through 2035. To handle the increased water needs they want to add 30 million gallons a day (mgd). No one on the council denied the need for the increase. But the how and where and how much proved frustrating for all.

Although the city plan calls for doubling the size of the Northeast Fresno Surface Water Treatment Plant (from 30 mgd to 60 mgd), there are no actual plans to make the expansion. The city figures it would collect the money first then build.

That was a no go for the building industry. They wanted specifics. Through attorneys and industry advocate groups who spoke during the hearing, they mentioned that the city would be collecting money for an unspecified plant without going through California’s stringent environmental review process (known as CEQA).

The city countered that because no specific plan is in place, they legally don’t have to conduct an environmental impact report. The plans to double the northeast plant is just floating an option. They could also expand the under-construction water treatment facility in southeast Fresno. Or build another new plant.

Councilman Oliver Baines wondered how he can face his public by charging them a water fee for new homes without a specific plan to spend it. Councilman Steve Brandau offered to split the difference of fees at $3900 (in between the $3500 the industry says is fair and the $4246 the city wants).

There was lots of back and forth between the council, Esqueda, his staff and city manager Bruce Rudd. Some council members wanted staff to come back with more options, including the possibilities of paying for the future expansion with a bond.

Mayor Lee Brand spoke and shot down the bond concept, saying that would send costs through the roof. He did mention the city’s dour history of grand public works projects including downtown parking garages.

In the end, the city hit the pause button, and will reconvene on the issue in two weeks. It is tentatively scheduled for the April 6 meeting.

Contact David Taub

Phone: 559-492-4037 / e-mail

This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email