Antioch Council tables sewer lateral ordinance on split vote

Ogorchock takes the lead on issue at her first regular council meeting

By John Crowder

During the December 16, 2014 meeting of the Antioch City Council, a proposed ordinance that would have instituted, according to Director of Public Works Ron Bernal, a “new requirement” effecting all Antioch property owners with or seeking to obtain sewer service was tabled on a 3-2 vote. The ordinance would have required property owners to ensure that their sewer laterals (the connection between the building and the public sewer system) have “proper cleanouts” and that they be, “inspected, cleaned, and replaced if necessary.”

Had it passed, staff intended to bring forward a budget amendment at a future meeting to approve a Public Works Technician position, at a cost of “approximately $120,000 plus $30,000 for startup costs for a workstation and vehicle.” The proposed ordinance was brought forward as part of a 2013 settlement agreement between the city of Antioch and Northern California River Watch, an environmental group which had alleged violations by the city of the Federal Clean Water Act and certain state regulations.

Prior to council discussion, local real estate agent Mark Jordan commented regarding the matter. “This seems to be reactive, rather than proactive,” he said. He later added, “I think it should go back to staff and it should be tightened up a little bit.”

In a discussion between council members and staff, Bernal said that, for older homes, “It could potentially be very expensive, as far as the amount of work that’s necessary to accomplish this ordinance.”

Do we have a cost to the homeowner at this point?” questioned Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock.

Bernal estimated that cleaning a system was in the $500 to $1500 range, an inspection in the $300 to $600 range, and that the replacement of a sewer lateral could cost anywhere from a “couple thousand dollars to $10,000 or more.”

Ogorchock continued questioning Bernal, asking about the frequency of actions being taken by staff related to sewer systems. Bernal said overflows occur numerous times each month.

Ogorchock then said that, in her real estate business, she had seen costs as high as $30,000, which she characterized as a, “huge cost.” She also asked who would pay the cost on a distressed property. Bernal said it would be the seller’s responsibility.

In response to a question from Mayor Wade Harper, Bernal said an inspection would be required every ten years, and a cleaning of a sewer lateral every 20 years.

Ogorchock spoke again, saying she had a fear that the cost of this program would hinder people from buying or selling homes in the city. She put forward a motion to table the item. Following additional, brief discussion, her motion was passed, 3-2. Ogorchock, Harper, and Council Member Monica Wilson voted in favor, while Council Members Mary Rocha and Tony Tiscareno voted no.

Mayor Harper explained his vote, saying he was concerned that there were not enough homeowners present to go forward with this item. He wanted to ensure that homeowners were aware that the council would be taking up the potentially costly issue.

Before moving on to their next item, City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland said that, for the ordinance to be brought before the council again, an affirmative vote would be needed from them.

One Comment to “Antioch Council tables sewer lateral ordinance on split vote”

  1. Scott macintyre says:

    Great job Lori. Doing what’s right for the people of Antioch with less Govt bureaucracy

Leave a Reply