Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hailey water, sewer fees could rise

New personnel needs cited by Public Works Department

Express Staff Writer

In order to meet tighter Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on treated wastewater discharged into the Big Wood River, the city of Hailey may soon have to raise water and sewer fees. 

The EPA provided the city with a new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit on June 28. The permit governs the quality and amount of sewage treatment effluent that Hailey may discharge into the Big Wood River.

“With the issuance of the new NPDES permit … there are necessary increases in the Wastewater Department budget to cover stricter discharge limits and testing requirements,” Hailey Public Works Director Tom Hellen stated in a memo to City Administrator Heather Dawson last month.

Hellen recommended increasing the wastewater base monthly fee from $11.24 to $13.59, with an increase in the rate per 1,000 gallons from $3.24 to $3.94. For the average user of 6,000 gallons per month, that results in a 21 percent increase, from $30.68 to $37.23.

Hellen said that if a proposed employee position is cut from the budget, average bills would only rise to $35.12, an increase of about 14 percent. Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said at a City Council meeting two weeks ago that he was not convinced that Hellen’s initially proposed new employee position was necessary.

Hellen also recommended increasing the fee for water connections to new users from $3,971 to $4,110, an increase of $139.

The City Council passed a budget on Aug. 20 that did not include the fee increases. The council will hold a hearing on Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m. to consider the fee increases.

Sonny Bahudir, regional water quality manager for the Idaho Department of Water Quality, said the restrictions on wastewater discharge are intended to keep the Big Wood River clean.

“The Big Wood River is essentially a pristine river, and citizens in that area want to keep it clean,” Bahudir said. “These are requirements they have imposed on themselves. In order to keep the standards they have, they have to treat the water." 

Tony Evans:

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