The capital improvement projects are required to modernize and expand El Centro's water and wastewater systems to repair and replace facilities as well as to plan for the city's growth. If all the improvements are made, the city will be investing nearly $37 million in its water and wastewater systems by 2010.
The Alder sewer project, now under way in the northern part of the city, is part of $22.4 million in wastewater system improvements planned. The Alder project is the first phase of a $6.7 million project that will add six miles of new sewer lines. Construction is being phased over the next three years.
"This gives us the sewer capacity that will allow the city to expand to the north and east as well as serve the Centerpoint Industrial Park," said Salem.
The project is partly funded with El Centro redevelopment funds.
Others in the planning stages include a $7 million Lotus sewer project in 2008-2009 to accommodate growth along the western edge of the city as well as construction or replacement of some lift stations. El Centro's water system is also slated to undergo modernization.
There are $14.8 million in improvements planned through 2009, including a filtration system upgrade, expansion of raw water storage capacity and rehabilitation of existing storage basins. Improvements to both the wastewater and water systems will come from several sources, but primarily through water and sewer rates paid by local
residents and businesses.
The Nolte study found that El Centro's existing water rates are among the least expensive of all agencies in the Valley and El Centro's wastewater rates are on a par with the rest of the Valley.
El Centro's combined water and wastewater rates — even with proposed increases — are still low when compared to other Valley agencies.
Meanwhile, the City Council has explored options to cushion the rate increases, including expanding the time frame on capital improvements of both the water and wastewater systems.
"While we obviously are going to be forced to increase water and wastewater rates in the near future, El Centro still will remain a very cost-effective place to live and do business," said Salem. "We pride ourselves on taking a cautious approach when it comes to increasing costs to our residents."
Water and wastewater fees paid by residents and businesses cannot be used for anything other than operation and maintenance of those systems.