Archive for Friday, December 3, 2004

Council opts for West Bottoms sewer site

December 3, 2004

Having decided to hitch its wagon to growth to pay for a new sewer plant, the De Soto City Council decided to get behind the biggest horse.

The Council agreed Thursday to build the new 1.3-gallon-per-day capacity sewer plant in the West Bottoms, which consultants at Shafer, Kline and Warren and city bond counsel Marty Nohe estimated would cost $8.6 million to construct and finance. That price tag was an estimated $1.8 million more than the other option under consideration before Thursday, which was to build a plant near the existing wastewater facility north of 83rd Street near Kill Creek.

The cost difference disappears, however, when all the upgrades to satisfy future growth are considered. Both plants are estimated to cost $9.4 million when fully built out.

In opting for the West Bottoms site, Council members cited the greater potential for westside growth needed to spare the city's existing sewer customers the burden of paying for the plant through monthly rates. That was an argument Mayor Dave Anderson, who missed the meeting for a business trip, made in November when the cost estimates were released.

Councilwoman Mitra Templin contrasted the large areas of undeveloped property to the west to the existing large-lot development pattern of the city's eastside. There were far more opportunities in the west, she said.

That potential led him to change his mind in recent weeks, Councilman Emil Urbanek said. The same thing that made the West Bottoms plant more expensive --a pump station and mile-long force main to the West Bottoms plant -- made it more likely to attract growth, he said.

"I was leaning to the east location in the last meeting," he said. "I really believe the westside in the long run will be the way to go.

"I'm optimistic about development. We're sitting here ready to explode."

Councilwoman Linda Zindler found other reasons to support the westside site in the draft sewer master plan Shafer, Kline and Warren consultants released to the Council last month. That report found the westside plant would provide more benefits to the city in the long term and would be cheaper to operate and maintain.

"We get more bang for the buck with the west," she said.

One of the benefits with the West Bottoms plant was the opportunity to eliminate five pump stations in the city with cheaper to operate and maintain gravity-fed systems. Councilwoman Betty Cannon said that and the westside's growth potential were factors in her decision to support the West Bottoms site.

Acknowledging the support for the west site, Councilman Tim Maniez said he remained concerned about rate increases that led him to support the Kill Creek site. He joined others on the Council supporting the more aggressive use of measures designed to pass much of the cost of the sewer to new development.

Models the consultants provided the Council last week indicated monthly customer bills would have to be raised $14.84 in the next five years -- or an average of $2.97 a year -- to pay for the West Bottoms sewer. That would start with a 2005 increase of $3.39 a month.

That model assumed larger principal payments in the bond issue's later years, so-called back loading, and increases in system development fees charged on new development of from $1,400 to $2,500 on single-family homes and from $1,000 to $2,000 on multi-family units.

The monthly customer rate increase shared with the Council was an average, City Engineer Mike Brungardt said. The city's bill structure had a base rate and step was designed to make larger volume customer pay more. The Council could make adjustments in the base and steps to relieve lower-end users from burdening rate increases, he said.

Council members agreed new development fees could be increased even more and still not exceed those in Gardner and Spring Hill. Additionally, city bond counsel Marty Nohe said back loading could be used more aggressively.

At the suggestion of Maniez, the consultants agreed to tweak both back loading and system development fees to bring the rate consequences of the West Bottoms plant nearer those projected with the Kill Creek site.

The model indicated the city would have to increase monthly rates $9.27 the next five years (an average of $1.85 a year) for a plant at the Kill Creek site. That would start with a $2.12 rate hike in 2005.

In response to Nohe's warning that moving too aggressively on the system development fee could bring diminishing results by discouraging development, Council members agreed they wouldn't be at a competitive disadvantage with other area cities.

"We wouldn't want to be twice ever body else," Maniez said. "When we were considering the excise tax, we heard, 'If you impose that, there will never be another house built.' That turned out not to be true."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.