Since 2007’s fiasco with the Proposition 218 protest vote to stop the increase in sewer rates to fund $42.5 million wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), the subsequent miscounting of the votes by former City Clerk, Dianne Nickerson, the recall against her, her resignation (or early retirement depending on where you sit) the referendum, the initiative that was defeated when the City sued Doug and Donna Westfall for trying to get it to the ballot….. whew! That’s alot. Might even call it exhausting.
There’s a flickering of light at the end of the tunnel though. Public Works Director, Jim Barnts, presented the City Council with a plan to accept septage at the WWTP. This should result in becoming a profit center. Creating a profit center from our WWTP plant and lab is not a new idea. When the workshops were held in 2007, Mr Barnts also mentioned that the $2 1/2 million, 2400 square foot lab (that’s $1,000 square foot folks…. which normally would be a red flag to anyone) should pay for itself within 2 1/2 years. NOT! Don’t know when that will hapen.
Let’s go back to septage. The short explanation is that that’s the stuff pumped out of septic tanks. Firms like Roto Rooter have to haul them a long ways and that increases their pumping rates to the consumer. If they were to unload at the WWTP for 25 cents a gallon and did that year in and year out at roughly 1,000,000 gallons a year, we’re looking at $250,000. Now the numbers become interesting. The numbers become even more interesting when considering that there are alot more haulers than just Roto Rooter.
If that one aspect of the WWTP becomes a profit center,and it should, is there any reason why our staff couldn’t now figure out a formula to incorporate in reducing sewer rates to the ratepayers?
Another question that begs for an answer. Eleven point 8 percent (11.8%) was allocated towards expansion of the WWTP. I’ve maintained and others have maintained that 11.8% expansion is not an accurate figure. Why is this an important figure? Because it goes to the issue of who pays for the expansion component. Right now the RATEPAYERS are on the hook for the entire one hundred percent (100%) of the loan. But that’s a question for another day.
Today, keep in mind that the only way sewer rates can be reduced is by showing the State we have a workable program to repay the loan. To refresh your memories, that came about in a 4-1 vote which was termed "the poison pill" by Bill Lonsdale, local resident. The city council voted to extend the term of the loan from 20 to 30 years. This increased the loan amount by $4 million, but gave the city some repayment years interest free. However, the city no longer had the power to reduce the sewer rates. The city gave that power away. At some level, and I don’t where where it happened, an agreement was made that only the State could reduce the sewer rates.
In my mind, the formula for reducing sewer rates must be incorporated into the septage program now. Otherwise, I’m concerned that it will not happen. If you agree, please let city hall or one of your local city council members know.