ANTIOCH -- Going ... going ... gone. That is what local youth sports officials fear will happen to their leagues if the city follows through on a notice to cut free water service.
Antioch has provided water for the Antioch Babe Ruth league, Youth Sports Complex and Historical Society at no cost for years, but now wants to end that practice.
The City Council agreed in May to extend water subsidies until Nov. 1 to allow city staff and the nonprofit organizations time to work on alternatives.
The switch could cost the Youth Sports Complex $42,000 a year and $36,000 for the Babe Ruth fields for water use, which officials say would force them to charge participants almost double.
"It would shut our doors," said Ed Daviess of the Babe Ruth league. Sign-up costs are $180 a player, he said, not including the bevy of fundraisers held throughout the year to keep the cost that low.
"We're the only league in East County for 13- to 18-year-olds. These kids will no have no place to go and one less thing to do," Daviess said.
Youth Sports Complex president Bob Liles adds: "We've already had a lot of people who have left our leagues saying it's a luxury they can't afford."
The Historical Society would have to pay $3,000 a year to water its grounds, forcing it to cut a field trip program for local third-graders, president Bob Martin said.
Antioch had been paying for the nonprofits' water from its water fund, money ratepayers
"If (the council) wants to subsidize something, it's more appropriate it comes out of the general fund or other specialized funding source, not the water fund," Jakel said. "Technically, if you pay it out of the water system, you're putting the cost onto the ratepayers, which is really not the right way to do it."
No meetings have been held to this point, but Jakel plans one next month.
Some Antioch leaders made the point during study sessions on the budget that the groups, as nonprofits, should not get breaks on city services.
Liles contends his group, unlike a traditional nonprofit, is managing an asset that is an extension of the city's park system.
The Youth Sport Complex fields are used by about 3,000 children in Antioch Little League, Delta Youth Soccer League and Delta Baseball & Softball League. The nonprofit is supported by league fees and renting some additional land on Wymore Way, Liles said.
Gaylord Container Corp. leased the 20-acre site to Antioch in 1991 for $1 a year, and it was built into a nine-field complex over the next decade through community and corporate donations.
A sublease agreement was approved with the Antioch Youth Sports Complex group in 1993, making the group responsible for all maintenance and operation costs. A year later, the deal was amended and the city agreed to provide water for field irrigation.
That agreement changed in 2004 when the nonprofit became the owner of the fee title after striking a deal with Gaylord. The nonprofit received a $1.3 million grant from Mirant to aid in the purchase.
Though there has never been anything in writing, city officials implied that the free water would remain, former group president Clay Baskin said.
According to Daviess, Antioch has provided water for the property Babe Ruth leases from Dow Chemical Co. because it was determined that a water well on the grounds was contaminated in the early 1990s. The city had the well capped, he said.
There could be different options for each group, including the possibly of using recycled water for the Babe Ruth league from nearby Delta Diablo Sanitation District and tapping into wells installed at the Antioch Youth Sports Complex, Jakel said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.