PRWID Board Sets New Impact Fees
|One of the projects discussed at Tuesday night's PRWID board meeting was the sewer extension work being done in Carbonville on 1500 West. At present the line is being installed and two bores to run pipes under the Carbon Canal and the Union Pacific tracks are in the works for this week.|
After months of study, consideration and a long nights of debate, the Price River Water Improvement Board finally set impact fees for new construction or additions to their system last Tuesday evening.
New hookups on the PRWID sewer system in all county areas where available will now be $725 if the owner lives within an incorporated area and $800 if located in an unincorporated area. The exceptions will include East Carbon, Sunnyside and Scofield which are not part of the PRWID system.
The question of fees were considered during a regular board meeting, but were passed rather quickly. The main concern was about how these changes would be implemented in the preceding months.
Each board member who represent the various cities that are covered by the system had taken the ideas back to the individual city councils, and had returned with mixed reactions from those bodies.
"Our council talked and talked about it," stated Price City council representative, Betty Wheeler. "It went around and around, but they just didn't really want to deal with it."
The old fees were based on a law passed by the the state legislature in 1997 giving fair and equitable treatment to all those who hook up to a water/sewer utility.
During the 2002 legislative session the laws were defined even more. The law states that water and sewer districts must have an independent study done every six years to see if impact fees are distributed equally and on a logical basis. From here the district's board must set the fees, based on various details and parameters, within the range of the suggested fee schedule.
For sewer fees, the $35,000 study which was done late last year and into this year was presented to the board earlier this spring. This study spelled out that the board could set the charge between residents paying nothing at all upward to $1600. Everyone in the central part of the county, including the incorporated areas that have sewer available to them, are a direct part of the PRWID system.
"The reason the fees are lower for incorporated areas is that the collection lines in the county are owned by PRWID while in the unincorporated areas they are part of the cities systems, so a user buying in must pay that $75 more for use of those lines," explained Jeff Richens, assistant district manager for PRWID.
However, when it came to the impact fee for water hookups, things had obviously not been resolved in earlier meetings. A debate ensued and the issue was close to being tabled, but board clerk Guido Rachiele reminded members that state law required some action. The panel then worked the problem out.
The debate centered mainly around how a water impact fee would hurt Wellington city's growth and attractiveness to business. PRWID has had a $1000 impact fee for water in it's unincorporated service area since 1997 when the first fee laws appeared. But all the incorporated areas were excluded from that, regardless if they had their own system or not, based on specific provisions of the law.
However, with the new law, any entity unincorporated or not, that has a district system and is maintained and run by the district, be charged equitable fees. That meant if the board kept the $1000 fee, anyone who built in the county as of July 1, 2003 in Wellington would have to pay that amount. But board members, including Wellington representative Karl Houskeeper were worried about how that would impede business growth in particular in that city.
"We have been concerned about how that would affect us when in the other municipalities people would not have to pay that," he stated, referring to Price and Helper.
The discussion became even more lively when the group remembered that some businesses, that use a lot of water and sewer services, pay on a multiple use basis, compared to homes.
"That means if someone were going to build something like a car wash in Wellington and they were charged for 20 units for both sewer and water at the rates we are considering, those costs would drive them to build in Price or Helper instead where the water fees are nearly nonexistent," explained board member Steve Rigby. "That puts Wellington at a decided disadvantage when it comes to businesses locating there."
Richens had put forth the final proposal for the fees based on past discussions among the group. He pointed out that the $1000 water impact fee had been paid by new county users for years, and that the money that an individual or company paid was to buy into a system that others on the utility had been using for years.
"My problem is that this isn't Park City, or Heber or Salt Lake," said Rigby, referring to the study and it's comparison of fees in other parts of the state. "This is Carbon County, and we have a depressed economy. I don't think we can ask people, particularly start-up businesses to pay such a high fee to get going."
Some in the room voiced the opinion that possibly there should be no impact fee for water at all.
But Richens pointed out that many of the places that PRWID gets their financing through would take a dim view of having no impact fees at all.
"All our funding requests are tied to the CIB, state division of water quality and others," he advised the board. "If we don't charge some type of equitable fee they could deny us funding in the future."
Rigby put forth a motion to set the impact fee at $500. The motion died because no other member would second the motion.
The discussion turned to what someone in the county must do to set up water to their home.
It was pointed out that right now an individual must turn over a water share to the district (if they have one or buy one and then turn it over) they must pay a hookup fee (which ranges in the area of between $700 and $800 for a meter and setting it) and then they have had to pay a $1000 impact fee as well.
"People could be into this thousands of dollars and they haven't even dug any dirt," stated Rigby.
Board chairman, Keith Cox was bothered by the prospect of charging so much, especially to businesses who must use a lot of water.
"I just never really considered how this would affect those type of businesses and now I am," he said.
Richens pointed out that according to the study, PRWID could levy up to $2300 for an impact fee, but that they had to fix it as something.
"This is retroactive to July 1 because that is when it was supposed to take affect," he told the board. "So you need to act tonight."
Finally, board member Tony Gonzales put forth a motion to set the fee at $400. Rigby seconded it and it passed three to two.
A discussion then took place regarding any residents or business that paid the full amount for the water impact fee since July 1. Staff said they would check the records to see if any fees had been paid and make appropriate refunds or changes.
In another matter Phil Palmer, district manager made a report to the board on the progress on the extension projects for this summer that have already begun construction.
"The contractor (who is doing all the small projects that are spread over much of the central county) has begun work in Carbonville on 1500 West," Palmer advised the board. "That will be the most difficult project and they have already made good headway on it."
Palmer explained that the line on 1500 West is almost completed up to Prazen Lane and that two bore holes, one under the Carbon Canal and the other under the Union Pacific main line would be started soon.
"Actually they are going to start the bore hole under the canal tomorrow (Wednesday)," he said. "We have the permit from the canal company. As for the railroad we are sending overnight mail packages back and forth to get those permits completed."
He pointed out since the bore hole to go under the canal will require tying up the 1500 West and that is the only way in and out of that neighborhood.
"We have gained permission to route traffic there though some private property until it is done," the district manager explained.
Palmer also told the board that one of the two crews working in the Carbonville area will be moving to one of the two small extension projects in Spring Glen in the next couple of days.