Sewer agreement broached

Mount Werner Water wants to renegotiate with city

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— The Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District wants to renegotiate a city sewer agreement that expires in 2005.

At the end of March, the district sent a letter to the city asking it to enter into negotiations to update the regional wastewater treatment plant agreement. The existing agreement was approved in 1980 and the district is asking that a new agreement be put in place by the end of 2003.

The water authority consolidation agreement proposed to voters in November would have kept the 1980 agreement in place, but the agreement failed overwhelmingly at the polls.

"The expiration of this agreement is of concern to the Mount Werner Water District as it brings some uncertainty to our district," District President Don Valentine wrote in a letter to City Council President Kathy Connell.

Connell brought the letter to the council's attention at Tuesday's meeting and said staff is gathering more information before negotiations continue.

The letter sparked some controversy when Connell scolded another City Council member for giving the letter to former City Council President Kevin Bennett.

Connell, who up until that time copied and shared with the six other council members all correspondence that was sent to her, said she would change those polices.

"I will not be sending out copies and I will be marking confidential on them," she said at Tuesday's meeting. "I just want to say that I am very upset and I am distressed. I think that we are all professionals and we should know that often times when we're beginning negotiations with people that we are professionals and we should keep it to ourselves."

A few days after that meeting, Connell said she plans to read all letters addressed to her as the City Council president before copying and distributing them to other council members.

Bennett said he knew that the sewer negotiations would start soon and asked the council member to pass along any correspondence dealing with a sewer treatment plant agreement.

The letter rekindles concerns that Bennett, other previous elected officials and a group of Old Town residents and property owners had when the water authority agreement came before the voters in November.

Bennett believes the current water and sewer rate structure is unequal with the burden placed on Old Town residents.

Those in the Mount Werner Water District, which lies roughly east of Fish Creek Falls Road, pay $32 per month for a four-person household using 15,000 gallons of water and sewage. The same 15,000 gallons would cost someone living in the city more than $69 a month, which would be $444 more per year.

The division increases for commercial properties. A commercial property in the district would pay $125 per month for 40,000 gallons and one in the city's system would pay more than $204, which would mean $948 more a year.

During the November campaign, council members said without an authority the city's water and sewer rates would go up and shortly after the issue failed water rates increased.

The city owns the wastewater treatment plant and is paying off an $11 million debt for its expansion.

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