City Council to tackle sewer rate issue

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The City Council will tackle the subject tonight of how it would like to see sewer rates structured after an agreement with five sewer districts expires in a year.

Consulting firm Rick Giardina & Associates has been hired to look at the city's operations and help develop a new rate system that will recover the costs of the city's wastewater treatment plant. The consultants will be at tonight's meeting.

The 1980 Institutional Agreement, which will expire Oct. 21, 2005, is among the city and Tree Haus District, Steamboat II Water and Sanitation District, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, Riverside Water and Sanitation District, and Ski Town Campground and Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park. Under the agreement, the five districts use the city's wastewater treatment plan and pay for its use by the volume of sewage that is processed.

Representatives from the five districts have been invited to attend the meeting.

City Finance Director Don Taylor said it is too early to tell how the changes in the rate structure would affect resident's sewer bills. He said it would not necessarily mean an increase in sewer rates for everybody.

"It is a whole different methodology, particularly for those who are outside of the city services," Taylor said.

The Water Focus Group, formed in November 2002 to work on consolidation between the city and the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, has had many discussions on the soon-to-be-expired agreement.

Under the current agreement, the city charges the outlying districts on a per volume fee. The districts, however, are able to charge their users through whatever rate structure they like.

City residents pay a flat fee, and then a per-gallon charge is applied.

The problem with the rate structure, Taylor said, is that there are additional costs associated with the treatment plant that are not being covered by the outlying districts.

Taylor also said the city will look at the use of a flat rate. Some districts are able to charge a flat rate per unit, even though the residents are there for very short times and have low flow volumes.

The consultants are just beginning to look at the rate structure, Taylor said, and the council is not expected to come to a final decision tonight.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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