The city and the Steamboat II Water and Sanitation District have come to an agreement over sewer connection and water tap fees after almost nine months of negotiations and threatened lawsuits.
In February, the two parties had finalized how much money the Steamboat II metropolitan district owed the city in past water and sewer tap fees. But it took another two months before deciding how much the metro district should be charged in future fees and for an agreement to come before the City Council.
Tonight, the City Council will see the first reading of an ordinance approving the agreement. The Steamboat II metro district will get the first look at the agreement during the April 29 board meeting.
For almost two years, the two entities could not agree on how much the metropolitan district owed the city in water and sewer tap fees and no payments were made between 1998 and 2002. Last summer, the city went to court asking that a payment be made. The court set a February hearing date, but ordered the two parties to seek a resolution in arbitration prior to that hearing.
The February court date was cancelled after the district agreed to pay $443,000 to the city.
The major disagreements revolved around whether the district should pay a flat fee for sewer connection or be charged per fixture. Also debated was whether the metro district should pay the full city rate for water tap fees or half that amount because the city's water mixes with water coming from a district tank.
The two entities reach a comprise in which the metro district pays half the city's price for water tap fees and pays sewer connection fees on a per-fixture basis.
"What this agreement did is deal with issues which are the heart of the lawsuit," said City Councilman Bud Romberg, who was part of the negotiating team.
For future fees, the city and the Steamboat II metro district agreed the district would pay sewer tap fees at 86 percent of what is charged within the city limits.
City Finance Director Don Taylor said the 86 percent goes toward the capital costs of the sewer plant and city-owned pipes. The 14 percent difference will cover the capital costs of pipes the district maintains or builds.
The city also guaranteed it would provide sewer service to the fewer than 100 undeveloped lots remaining in the Steamboat II metro district.
Also as part of the new agreement, the city will reaffirm a 1993 agreement on water use rates. Steamboat II district Manager Doug Baker said there was some discussion as to whether that agreement was valid because the city passed it by a resolution and not an ordinance.
"We thought the deal was done in 1993 and wasn't opened for negotiation," Baker said.
And even while these negotiations are winding down, Baker said the two entities could be back at the negotiating tabling soon. A 1980 sewer agreement between the city and five water districts expires in 2005.
Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District has already asked the city to enter into negotiations to rework the deal; the Steamboat II district would like to join them to discuss sewer rates, Baker said.
"We would like to be a part of those conversations," Baker said. "We are really the only three water districts. Our hope would be all those three parties would sit down at the table and renegotiate."
-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org