Walnut Ranch residents work to establish facilities district
Water- and septic-troubled Walnut Ranch residents are moving toward establishing a Community Facilities District to fund the actual annexation into Colusa.
When that will happen will depend on a variety of things, but ultimately must also include the buyout of the Del Oro water system that serves the 73-home subdivision south of town.
"We have overwhelming support from the community," said Jennifer Vennery, a member of the committee that is spearheading the annexation effort. "Everyone understands we really need to do this."
The residents are pushing hard to move forward in the process so they can secure affordable funding for the estimated $3.6 million annexation.
"We would like to get it to LAFCO as soon as possible, before funding sources allocate their funding (elsewhere)," Vennery said.
The project must also win support from the city Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council, but that is largely viewed as a foregone conclusion.
Still, Acting City Manager Randy Dunn said the staff will present the city boards a variety of options to review on the matter.
City officials think it can all be worked out by the end of the summer.
The residents looking to secure grants and low-interest loans, such as a US Department of Agriculture Rural Assistance loan, which charges as low as 2.13 percent on a 40-year loan.
The loan would be paid off with property tax assessments established through the facilities district.
The residents have already taxed themselves $1,375 on each parcel to pay for the pre-annexation costs, funds that were fronted to the group by the county.
The last of the four payments on their property tax will be made in April.
What the actual cost of the annexation will be depends on what happens with Del Oro, which had been consistently opposed to the annexation.
But Dunn said the company seems more open to the process now. "At some point, we are going to have to buy them out, or condemnation is a possibility," Dunn said. "And it is my understanding that they are receptive to a buyout."
Dunn did not want to elaborate any further, saying he does not want to compromise potential negotiations.
He emphasized that none of the costs will be paid by existing city residents.
The trouble is determining what the value of the failed system is, and the specter of eminent domain is still a possibility.
In addition to determining what to do with the existing water system, or to lay down new pipe, a whole new sewer conveyance system will be needed.
Vennery said there are some residents who have had to replace their septic tanks twice because of the harsh water quality. The clay makeup of the ground also plays a part in the troubles, she said.
The Butte County company, which purchased the system from the Walnut Ranch Water Company in 2005, offered a different alternative. It proposed hooking into the Colusa Industrial Properties system.
But the Walnut Ranch residents, who had been routinely opposed to coming into the city until they started to experience the water and septic difficulties, see annexation as the best solution.
The city is already providing water to the subdivision through an intertie agreement with Del Oro.
Without it, the residents would not have water, but the agreement comes at a premium, and those costs are going up — another reason residents want to move forward as quickly as possible.
The city charges Del Oro $545.36 for meter hook-up each month, plus $1.69 for every 100 cubic feet of water used.
Each resident is looking at a monthly water bill of close to $108.
The annexation will likely absorb nine property owners that sit between Walnut Ranch and the city boundaries. City officials are aware they do not favor annexation.
Vennery said it is her understanding that not all the property owners oppose annexation, but either way, city Planner Bryan Stice said those owners will not be forced to hook into the city's water or sewer service.