ANTIOCH -- Let the water flow.

That's the message Antioch leaders expressed several times last week shortly after agreeing to provide financial help for three nonprofits to tap their own wells.

Antioch will provide the Antioch Youth Sports Complex, Antioch Babe Ruth League and Antioch Historical Society with 20-year, no-interest loans to develop or rebuild wells. The loans, which would cover about $77,000 worth of work, will also be forgiven at a rate of 5 percent each year. The nonprofits also plan to pursue grant money or other means to repay the loan.

"The idea is we want these organizations here for a long time. We want them here for many years, teaching our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren," Mayor Wade Harper said.

The decision comes months after the city decided to cut off the free water service it had been providing, a move some thought would mean "game over" for several youth sports leagues.

It costs Antioch about $140,000 a year to provide nonpotable water to the groups, Public Works Director Ron Bernal said.

Ed Daviess, president of the Babe Ruth league, said he was pleased with the council's decision, including that the no-interest-rate loan makes it easier since his league's revenue does not "stream in throughout the year."

"It makes it so we can survive, which is what we were hoping for and also allows us to be environmentally conscious," Daviess said. "This is the best thing for all of us."


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Antioch has been paying the nonprofits' water for almost two decades; first using its water fund -- money ratepayers pay for water treatment and distribution -- and later its redevelopment agency and other accounts, before eventually using general fund money, City Manager Jim Jakel said last fall.

The water expenses "came under the microscope" as the city's budget situation worsened four years ago, Jakel said.

The city and nonprofits have been discussing possible solutions since last fall.

The council said that a suggested option of using recycled water would prove far too expensive.

"Wells are the best low-cost alternative," councilman Gary Agopian said. "It gets us all in the direction we want to go."

The Youth Sports Complex fields are used by about 3,000 children in Antioch Little League, Delta Youth Soccer League and Delta Baseball & Softball League. Babe Ruth has about 300 players ages 13 to 18.

The sports complex uses about $75,000 annually in water, Babe Ruth uses about $60,000 and the historical society $5,000. Those costs could be slashed significantly once the wells are installed.

Both nonprofit sites have existing wells in the properties, but the sports complex does not have a pump installed. The historical society does not have an existing well.

In addition to well maintenance costs, the organizations also have to pay for city water to run the snack bar and restrooms.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.