Politics & Government

LAFCO urges Fresno to absorb Pinedale districts

Pinedale's water and sewer districts should consider dissolving and be absorbed by the city of Fresno, a countywide agency recommended.

The Local Agency Formation Commission made the recommendation after hearing reports on the future public service needs for the Pinedale area.

Bruce Barnes, a Fresno city planner, told LAFCO's board that the city agrees with the recommendations.

But, Neal Costanzo, a lawyer representing Pinedale County Water District, said the city of Fresno has previously described the service area as "a headache they don't want."

LAFCO's board, which oversees community and district borders, heard reports about the Pinedale County Water and Pinedale Public Utility districts Wednesday.

The water district provides water, sewer and trash collection in the northern Fresno neighborhood.

The public utility district provides sewer services to different portions of Pinedale, street lighting, street sweeping and landscape maintenance. The agencies combined have more than 5,000 customers.

Fresno city officials say they are willing to consider taking over services for Pinedale residents.

Large chunks of both districts are within Fresno's city boundaries.

The districts are more than 50 years old. They have aging water mains and sewer lines and no money to replace them. Both districts send their sewage to Fresno's regional sewage treatment plant.

Dissolving the districts into Fresno could add "greater economy and efficiency," LAFCO staff reports said.

As part of the plan, the city would take over both districts' assets, service obligations and employees.

Paula Guzman, a Pinedale resident, said she does not want to have her services provided by the city.

"I don't think the city could be more efficient than the district," she said. "If we have a problem, we can call and it's usually 15 minutes before our problems are addressed."

Truman Campbell, a lawyer for Pinedale Public Utilities District, said residents will not support being under the city of Fresno's umbrella.

But Don Adams, a Pinedale resident, said a Fresno takeover could be better for residents because rates would drop.

"The residents should know the differences, and I think there should be an election," Adams said.

LAFCO board member Trinidad Rodriguez said the decision will not be made quickly and ultimately, it will be up to the residents of Pinedale.