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Frequently Asked Questions - Public Works

UTILITIES- UTILITY RATES

 

UTILITIES- WASTEWATER (SANITARY SEWER) DRAIN LINES

 

UTILITIES - WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT

 

UTILITIES- STORMWATER DRAINAGE SERVICES

 

UTILITIES- WATER SERVICES

 

TRAFFIC

 

PARKING

 

STREET AND SIDEWALK MAINTENANCE

 

COMMUNITY SERVICE

 

 

UTILITIES- UTILITY RATES

Why have my rates doubled in the last 10 years?
An economic “rule of thumb” is that everything just about doubles in price every 10 years.  Rates ARE NOT BASED on this, but on actual costs.  Everything the City does must comply with State law, is audited every year and is open to public review.  We also compare our rates to other Cities in the region and find that we are doing well in keeping our rates as low as possible.

Is growth the reason for these increased fees?
NO, our City has a policy that “growth pays for growth.”  All costs related to growth are paid by sewer impact or “connection” fees.  These fees are charged to the developer, and are usually passed on to the new property owner in the price of the property.  The costs required to comply with our new wastewater permit do not include any expansion of the current treatment plant capacity.

Why are wastewater rates increasing so quickly?
The major cause is our new National Pollutions Elimination Discharge System (NPDES) Permit.  Your Elected Officials along with City staff have been trying everything possible to mitigate the cost impacts of this permit.  They have given public testimony before the Regional Water Board, met with Federal and State representatives, filed an appeal with the State Water Board and approached the League of California Cities for assistance.  The requirements of the new permit are onerous and expensive. 

Why is there no senior discount for utilities?
Unfortunately, it is not legally possible to offer discounted rates to senior residents based on age.  State law requires that all customers be charged based on the actual cost of a service.

Is there anything we can do to ease the burden of higher rates?
EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) is now available and has the added advantage of allowing average monthly billing for residential customers.  Sign up at the Finance Department at 380 Civic Drive.  In addition, the City will be updating accounting software, which may allow some “level-loading” of annual water and wastewater usage for customers on meters.

What is the purpose of this rate increase?
The purpose of this rate increase is to begin to collect funds required to pay for the upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant mandated by the State of California.

Why now?
The City has an anticipated deadline in 2010.  This fund augments existing funds to pay for many (but not all) of the projects necessary for the next two years.

How much will the upgrade cost?
The current estimate is between $48M and $63M to serve the customers within the existing City limits..

Will new development benefit from this fee?
Any new development outside the existing City limits will be required to pay for expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.  This fee will cover only the upgrade of the existing wastewater treatment plant and will not cover expansion costs.

What is the difference between "upgrade" and "expansion"?
Upgrade improves treatment quality.  Expansion increases treatment quantity.

Will rates increase in the future?
Yes.  The City will be conducting a formal rate study in the near future to determine a fair and equitable cost for residents and businesses.

How was my WWTP Upgrade Fee determined?
The benchmark fee was $10 for a single family residence.  Upgrade fees for commercial and institutional customers were calculated based on the residential benchmark.

What will happen if the City does not upgrade the wastewater treatment plant?
If the City does not upgrade the wastewater treatment plant by the anticipated 2010 deadline, the City  could potentially face fines up to $1.6M per month.

 

UTILITIES- WASTEWATER (SANITARY SEWER) DRAIN LINES

What do I do if I need to report a sewer mainline blockage or other sewer maintenance?
If you need to report a sewer mainline blockage, or any other need for sewer maintenance, staff can be contacted by phone at any time.  During normal working hours, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, please call (209) 366-7260.  To report an incident during off hours, contact the Galt Police Department at (209) 366-7000 and they will contact on-call maintenance personnel. 

My plumber said there is a problem with my sewer and that the City will fix it.  Is this true?
Actually, the City is responsible for maintaining the sewer mainline only.  Maintenance of a sewer lateral attached from the residence to the mainline serving private property is the responsibility of the property owner.  The property owner must clear line blockages to the mainline.  Call your plumber first.

I called my plumber out to fix a sewer stoppage.  He said the blockage is on the City’s side. 
Will the City clear the blockage and who will pay my plumber bill?

The property owner must clear line blockages to the sewer main in the middle of the street.  If the blockage is caused by damage to the sewer lateral in the street, contact the Public Works Department at (209) 366-7260.

Exceptions?
There are two exceptions.  When the lateral service from the sidewalk to the sewer main is actually broken, the City will replace the broken line.  If a tree maintained by the City damages a sewer lateral, the City will repair the lateral.  If your plumber discovers a damaged line in the sidewalk or street area, he should contact Public Works.

There are tree roots in my line, apparently from my yard tree. 
My plumber says the line must be broken, and he wants a lot of money to fix it.  What should I do?

First, find out if the line is actually broken.  This can be done using a TV camera designed to fit in the sewer pipe.  Your plumber may be able to do this.  If it is not broken (small cracks are common) and the line is clear, a regular treatment of commercially available root killer will mitigate root intrusion.  If the line is broken, you may want to obtain several price quotations for its repair.  The property owner is responsible for any damage to any lines or structures caused by his/her own trees.

Can my plumber work on my sewer line?
If the work is to be done entirely on your property, yes.  A plumber with a C-36 Contractors License and Galt City business license can do the work.  A general Class A, Sewer Contractor Class C-42, or Pipeline Class C-34 license and a Galt City business license with a $1,000,000 insurance policy on file are required to do work within public right-of-way (e.g., under sidewalk, in the parkway or the street).  An encroachment permit from the City would be necessary to work within public right-of-way.  To obtain a permit, contact the Engineering Division at (209) 366-7260. 

What kind of pipe can I use to repair my sewer line?
If there are no root problems, vitrified clay pipe (VCP, AKA red clay pipe), Schedule (Sch) 40 PVC, or Sch 40 ABS may be used.

What type of permit is required?
Permits for work on your property are issued by the City’s Building Department at (209) 366-7200.  Permits for work within public right-of-way (sidewalk and street area) are issued by the Engineering Division at (209) 366-7260. 

 

UTILITIES- WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT

What is a National Pollution Elimination System (NPDES) Permit?
The NPDES permit was established in Federal Law in 1987 to regulate and protect discharges to surface waters of the United States.  The City has a permit for wastewater and one for stormwater.  The California application and regulation of federal and state laws has been delegated to the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).  These boards and their staff interpret laws and issue permit requirements.

What effect is the new NPDES wastewater permit going to have on me?
In the next 5 years, it has the potential of raising your current sewer rate from 2-1/2 to 4 times over what it is today.  Recent increases on your bill may not even cover the costs needed for this year.

What are we “required” to do with this new permit that is going to cost so much?
Our discharge is now classified as a potential municipal water supply; the RWQCB is not allowing any dilution credits and still requires us to reclaim all discharge water in the summer.  Initial cost estimates to comply are about $40 million in improvements and an additional $3 million a year to operate.

Without any dilution credits and classified as a potential municipal water supply, we basically have to discharge water of a quality better than drinking water.

Without being able to discharge water all year, we have to irrigate land 6 months each year.  This will also require the City to purchase about 350 more acres of land.

How can these enormous cost increases happen?
Elected officials along with City staff have been working on every possible solution to mitigate these cost impacts.  The RWQCB interprets regulations and while the regulations have not substantially changed, the interpretations have.  Both staff and elected officials have spoken before the RWQCB and what it costs you, the end user, is not a primary concern.

Will tertiary treatment solve our problems?
No.  As part of this permit, we have to install tertiary treatment (about $15 million).  Tertiary treatment may well have met the requirements, if we also had a dilution credit and our discharge was not declared a municipal drinking water source.

Why not just connect into the Sacramento Regional Plant?
Rough cost estimates to do that are around $80 million dollars.  We would not only pay whatever rate for treatment is charged, but also have to charge a City fee to maintain our local infrastructure.  We also would have to pay to connect. 

Who can I contact to voice my concerns?
Regional Water Board members are appointed by the Governor.  All current members were appointed by Gray Davis.  You can contact your State Senator, Assemblyman and the Governor.  You could also contact our Central Valley Regional Water Board, but that may have little impact.

 

UTILITIES- STORMWATER DRAINAGE SERVICES

I pay a stormwater fee.  What does this money pay for?
The Stormwater Fund helps cover the costs of programs for preventive maintenance, drainage repair, construction projects, and stormwater pollution prevention.  The Stormwater Utility also funds repair and construction projects that directly target local flooding problems.  Typical repair requirements include blockage by tree roots, physical damage from aging and settling and landscape conditions altering over time.

Why do I pay a drainage maintenance fee when I don’t have ditches or drain inlets on or near my property?
The water that leaves your property (runoff), either from irrigation or rainfall, ultimately drains into a Stormwater Utility facility.  (All roads in the City also must be drained.)  You are assessed a fee because this runoff contributes to the need for maintenance.

My gutter is flooded at the drain inlet on the street.  How do I get this unplugged?
The property owner is responsible for keeping the gutter free of leaves and other debris.  If the drain inlet gets plugged during a storm, the property owner may pull out debris with a rake or shovel.  NEVER REMOVE THE INLET GRATE!  If your efforts to clear the inlet blockage are unsuccessful, contact Public Works at 209-366-7260; or after hours, Galt PD at 209-366-7000 for assistance.

 

UTILITIES- WATER SERVICE

Why is my neighbor’s water bill different than mine when we both receive water from the City of Galt?
Not everybody is on a flat water rate.  Some residents receive metered water and their rates fluctuate with their use.

I am a flat-rate water customer.  Will I have to go to metered water?
At this time, the City Council has not mandated that all residential customers go to metered service.  The State Legislature is contemplating requiring the entire State be metered.

Do metered customers pay more for their water?
During 1999, the Sacramento County Water Agency completed a water metering pilot study in the Laguna West Lakeside Communities.  The results concluded that 63 percent of the household participating in the study would not have had an increase in their water bill if they had been billed on a metered rate versus a flat rate.  Water metering rewards the water customer for implementing water conservation practices.

 

What can I do to conserve water?
Water conservation is easy.  Just following a few simple tips can make a really big difference.

  • Water when evaporation is low, between midnight and 10:00 am.  Try to avoid using water during the peak-use hours of 5:00 – 8:00 am.
  • Follow an odd/even water schedule.
  • Use a drip irrigation system to prevent runoff by applying water directly to the plant’s root zone.
  • Select water efficient landscape plants.
  • Sweep or rake up debris instead of hosing it away.
  • Use a pistol grip nozzle on your hose to prevent water from running continuously.
  • Adjust your sprinkler heads to make sure water is going where it’s needed and not on sidewalks and driveways.
  • Do not cycle/run sprinkler system too long into the street gutter.  Water should not drain.

I’ve read several articles lately on water quality.  How do I know my drinking water is safe?
The Utilities Division of Public Works monitors your drinking water regularly.  Annually, our customers receive a Consumer Confidence Report detailing the composition of their drinking water.  You can view this document in its entirety on the City’s web page under Public Works, Utilities Division.  If you are a City of Galt customer and don’t have a copy of the Consumer Confidence Report, please call Public Works at (209) 366-7260.

What is the relationship between water and power?
Water use consumes a tremendous amount of electricity.  Water must be obtained, purified and pumped to homes and businesses through the use of energy.  After the water is used, it must be pumped to wastewater plants for cleaning.  Water pumping is the single most significant use of electricity in the State of California.  By using water efficiently, we can conserve water and energy.  For more water conservation tips, call our water conservation hotline at (916) 875-6420.

I have brown water coming out of my faucets and in my toilets.  Can the City come out and fix the problem?
First check to see if ONLY the hot water is brown in color.  If the brown water occurs when using hot water, this discoloration is caused by sedimentation in the hot water heater and generally indicates that the hot water heater should be flushed.  Consult your owner’s manual for the proper procedure to flush the hot water heater.  Most manufacturers recommend that hot water heaters should be flushed once per year.

If your cold water is brown, it is generally caused by iron and manganese.  These minerals are not hazardous but often coat the interior of pipes.  Any change in the flow of water can cause these minerals to run free.  If this occurs, customers should flush water from their main hose bib, usually located in the front of the house for approximately 3 minutes.  If this does not clear the problem, contact the City Utilities Division at (209) 744-0847.  The City works to minimize this problem by periodically flushing water mains throughout the system. 

Does the City add fluoride to its water?
No.  Any fluoride found in City water occurs naturally. 

I am trying to program my new water softener - What is the hardness of Galt water?
Galt water has a low hardness value - From 64 - 122 ppm (parts per million).  We recommend that you consult your manufactures guidelines for settings and adjust accordingly.

 

TRAFFIC

Can we have a STOP sign to control speeding?
A STOP sign is intended to determine the right-of-way at an intersection.  It is a rather poor speed control device.  Studies have shown that the effectiveness of a STOP sign on speed ranges from 100 to 150 feet from the sign, after which a vehicle will regain its original speed or faster.  If a speeding problem exists, contact the Police Department at (209) 366-7000 for traffic enforcement.

Does the City install speed humps or bumps?
The City does not install speed humps or bumps on any public streets.  The speed hump is not considered an official traffic control device and its use could render the City liable should any problems arise.  Speed humps may also delay response time for emergency vehicles.

Can we have “SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY” signs?
“SLOW – WATCH FOR CHILDREN” signs may be installed by the City for a limited period on City streets.  Requests should be submitted to Public Works for evaluation.

Why am I waiting at a red light when there is no cross traffic?
It could be that the signal is malfunctioning.  If you notice a signal that suddenly does not function like it normally did, please contact Public Works at (209) 366-7260 so we can check it out.  In many cases that is the only way we will know if something is wrong.

Can we have a crosswalk?
Marked crosswalks are typically placed at signalized or STOP controlled intersections.  The markings on the roadway have shown to give pedestrians a false sense of security and, therefore, not marking them tends to lead the pedestrians to be more careful.  Requests for a marked crosswalk should be sent to Public Works.

Can you lower the speed limit so everyone will drive slower?
The speed limit is set based on standards found in the California Vehicle Code, except in residential and school areas where the limit is 25 mph.  The Vehicle code requires an engineering study be performed in order to set the speed limit.  Lowering a speed limit in hopes of slowing down vehicles generally does not work, and is not necessarily enforceable by California Law.  Drivers tend to drive at a speed, which they feel is comfortable.

My street name sign is missing.  Can the City install one?
Contact Public Works at (209) 366-7260 to replace missing signs.

I got a speeding ticket by a policeman using a radar gun.  Is that legal?
The use of radar to determine speeds has very specific rules.  If you are issued a speeding ticket on a City road, the road is classified as “local” or a valid engineering study exists for that road.

 

PARKING

I can’t see down the street because cars park right next to my driveway.  What can be done?
The City can prohibit parking for various safety reasons.  Parking, in residential areas, is not restricted due to the impact on homeowners.  Exiting a driveway safely is a slow and deliberate maneuver by a driver.

Employees of other local businesses park in front of my business.  Can I get limited time parking signs installed?
Limited time parking is expensive to enforce.  You may submit a request to Public Works but unless the Police Department has sufficient enforcement personnel, restrictions will not be approved.

What can I do about cars and trucks parked in front of my house?
A vehicle can legally park anywhere on any public street.  Examples of illegally parked vehicles are:  vehicles parked in excess of a consecutive period of 72 hours, detached camp trailer, carry all, dumpster, and semi-trailer between the hours of 2:00 am and 6:00 am; and a vehicle with a gross weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.

 

STREET AND SIDEWALK MAINTENANCE

When will my street be resurfaced?
The City streets were recently rated on their present pavement condition.  There is a Pavement Management Master Plan that prioritizes each street based on the pavement conditions, the availability of budget, type of use, and the amount of daily traffic flow. Typically, main streets and secondary collectors receive a higher priority for pavement resurfacing than residential streets.

When will the Street Sweeper clean my street?
Sweepers operate on roads on a schedule.  Generally, the sweeper runs on every street at least once a month.  Commercial streets and collector streets are swept twice as often as residential streets.  The sweeper assists in cleaning streets, but cannot remove all trash and debris.   Property owners are responsible for keeping the street and sidewalk free of debris.

How can we get sidewalks clear of low hanging trees?
Trees on private property are the responsibility of the property owner to trim.  Trees should be trimmed at least 8 feet above the sidewalk and one foot wider than the sidewalk.  Trees and bushes also cannot block viewing of traffic and parking signs.  Trees located on private property whose branches interfere with electrical transmission lines may be altered by SMUD.  If City-owned trees are encroaching on sidewalks or signage, contact Public Works to have trimmed.

May I push leaves and dirt into the street for the sweeper to remove?
No. The sweeper cannot pick up all debris and leaves are particularly hard to pick up.  Additionally, placing leaves or dirt in the street is a serious violation of stormwater pollution prevention ordinances and can lead to serious fines.  Place all dirt and leaves in your green waste disposal bin for pickup on your scheduled trash pick-up day.  Remove all trash and leaves from the street gutter immediately in front of your property and dispose of in trash and green waste bins.  The street sweeper will assist in keeping large road areas clean.

How do I get my sidewalk repaired?
Sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the property owner.  A licensed contractor should perform the work.  Homeowners may request an encroachment permit at no cost for sidewalk repairs.

May I leave piles of topsoil or bark on the street or sidewalk for a home improvement project.
No.  A permit is required to place or work in the City right-of-way.  Due to stormwater protection practices, the City will most likely not approve a permit for placing materials on the street or sidewalk.

Can I set my basketball hoop on the street for my children?
No.  Hoops must be placed on private property.  Hoops in the street block parking, pose a vehicle hazard and encourage children to play in the street.

Where can I place “garage sale” signs?
Garage sale signs may temporarily be placed on private property with property owner permission, or in vehicle windows of parked vehicles.   Signs may not be placed on telephone poles, streetlights, or City signposts.

A streetlight has been out on my street for two months.  Why hasn’t the City repaired it yet?
The City repairs City-owned streetlight and SMUD-owned but City-maintained streetlights.  Public Works relies on citizens to report streetlight problems for repair.  We do not have staff that specifically locates streetlight problems.  Please contact Public Works at (209) 366-7260.

Do I need a permit to repave or resurface my driveway?
Yes, a permit is required.  The purpose is to assure a uniform, high level of quality construction throughout the city.

What materials do I need to bring with me to the Engineering Division in order to apply for a permit?
A plot plan showing the existing conditions and the proposed changes you want to make.  This plan must show the current drive approach, trees, meter boxes, walls and the neighbor's driveway, if it is adjacent to yours.  It must also be drawn to scale.

What are the minimum requirements for residential driveways/parkway areas?
Residential driveways/parking areas shall be a minimum width of 10 feet and lead to an approved carport pr garage/  The drive approach on public right-of-way shall also be the same width as the driveway, on your property.  The plot plans will assist the City in determining if the proposed improvement will meet the city code and to ensure the proposed driveway does not impact adjacent improvements such as fire hydrant, meter box, etc.

I want to widen my driveway by a couple of feet.  Can I do that?
Yes you can if the existing driveway is less than ten feet wide.  However, the drive approach must be widened at the same time.  You may not widen the driveway if the intent is to provide an additional parking space using the setback.  Galt City Municipal Code limits the amount of area that can be paved.  Up to ____ percent of the front and side yard setbacks may be paved.

Do I need a Street Use Permit?
A Street Use Permit is required if you need a refuse dumpster that will be stored on the street or within the City right-of-way.

Who is responsible for maintaining or replacing the sidewalk in front of my home/business?
Per city ordinance, the adjacent property owner is responsible for maintenance and/or replacement unless a city street tree has damaged the side walk.  The public works department can make an inspection to determine cause of damage.

When is the best time of year to prune/trim my trees?
Pruning may be done any time of the year, but some times of year are better than others.  Deciduous trees that flower before the end of May should be pruned right after blooming.  Deciduous tress that flower after May should be pruned between January and March.  Prune flowering Cherry trees in late summer, flowering Evergreens in May, and Conifers in autumn.  Remove dead,  damaged, or diseased wood as soon as it is discovered.

What makes a pothole?
Potholes are created when moisture seeps into the pavement and sub-base causing asphalt, road base or sub-base failure.  Air temperature changes also cause expansion and contraction of the pavement.  This weakens the pavement and then vehicular traffic loosens the pavement even more; it eventually crumbles and pops out.

Why do so many potholes occur in the winter and spring?
Rainwater makes its way through the cracks in the pavement and will create voids under the pavement that can eventually cause the pavement to break up.  A winter of heavy rain and many warm/cold cycles can create conditions leading to a significant pothole season ahead.

Who can I call to report a pothole?
If the pothole is on a city street, call the public works department at 366-7260 between the hours of 8:00 am and 3:30 pm.  After hours or on weekends, call the police department at 366-7000.

Once I report a pothole, how long does it take to get it fixed?
Normally it will be temporarily patched within 24 hours.  But, if a patch crew is already working in the affected area, it is usually repaired within 30 minutes.  Maintenance crews are constantly on the lookout for potholes, but the city welcomes citizen calls about potholes as well.

How are potholes and utility trenches repaired?
During cold weather, repairs are made using "modified" cold patch asphalt.  One of the characteristics of the modified cold patch is its ability to wick any water out of a pothole.  This wicking characteristic can speed up the repair process and make it more permanent.  During the summer, hot asphalt and compaction rollers are used to seal up shallow potholes and cracks in road pavement.  This type of preventative maintenance helps to stop potholes from forming in the spring.  Permanent hot mix asphalt work can only be properly done when the ambient temperature is 60 degrees or warmer.  If the existing pavement is cold and the air temperature is too low, or if the pavement is wet and dirty, the hot mix will not adhere to the existing pavement.

Do some roads have more potholes than others?
Roads with high traffic volumes have more potholes than others due to the sheer weight and volume of traffic.

Can anything be done to prevent potholes?
Roads today are being built to reduce their moisture capacity, and researchers are working to develop a better, more durable pavement.  Researchers also have improved the cold-patch asphalt so those patches last longer.  This "high performance" material comes in 50 lb. bags, and stays pliable and workable in the coldest of temperatures.  Several types of pavement surface treatments are available to help prevent pavement deterioration, depending on the condition of the road section, and the amount of city dollars to spend on them.

 

COMMUNITY SERVICE

How can I volunteer to help the City be a better place to live and work?
The Public Works Department sponsors a number of activities to improve our City:  hydrant painting, stormwater drain marking, sign cleaning, adopt-a-street.