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Murray Journal

City wastewater rates to increase and fire station bond approved

Feb 08, 2018 12:45PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Public Services Director Doug Hill explains a rate increase to the city council. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave  |  [email protected]

Murray City Council unanimously approved a wastewater fee hike that will increase rates by nearly 26.6 percent over a five-year period. The increase was necessary because of required upgrades to the Central Valley Water Reclamation (CVWR) Facility, which is the wastewater treatment plant handling all of Murray’s sewage.

Murray has an 8 percent stake in the facility, a proportion based on how much wastewater the city sends to that plant. For several years, Central Valley Water has been planning an expansion and upgrade to the facility to comply with state and federally mandated requirements for phosphorus and nitrogen removal. Central Valley Water has estimated that over the next 10 years the cost of these upgrades will be approximately $250 million, and the seven member entities will share in that cost.

When the city found out it would have to pay for a portion of the upgrade and expansion to Central Valley Water, then Public Services Director Doug Hill, at a Nov. 21 city council meeting, said, “We realized that with our current rates we would not be able to make that payment to Central Valley Water.”

The city charges a base monthly fee to everybody, regardless of how much sewage they produce; that base charge is $7.62 per month. Residents are assessed an additional usage fee based on how much water they use during the winter months (November through April). The city does that because most people don’t use any outside water during the winter months, which makes it easier for the city to determine how much of the water being used is going to the treatment plant. The current usage charge is $2.26 per hundred cubic feet.

For a single-family home, the average monthly sewer bill is approximately $30. Hill said, “The proposal is for the sewer rates to increase a little each year over the next five years. This would bring the average sewer bill for a single-family home from $30 to approximately $38 per month. 

Councilman Jim Brass, who represents Murray on the Central Valley Water Board, remarked in support of the rate increase, “When the EPA and the Division of Water Quality changed the rules on phosphorus and nitrogen discharge from the plant into the river, it essentially made the plant obsolete. To meet the new rules, the plant must be completely rebuilt, and Central Valley Water has five years to do it.”

In additional city business, the council addressed the development of the Murray City Center District and the issuance of bonds for a new fire station. A public hearing was held at the Dec. 12 city council meeting to receive input regarding the issuance of approximately $5.8 million in sales tax revenue bonds for construction of the station and command center.

The payoff period for the bonds is less than 14 years, which is the period in which the city will collect the local option sales tax to pay the debt service. City Finance Director Danyce Steck said, “The purpose of this bond is to smooth out the cash flows for the city as we attempt to finish the downtown redevelopment and build a new city hall.”

Steck added, “The main purpose is to preserve our reserve levels and to try and increase our credit rating when we go out to build city hall. If we issue the bonds at this point in time, we will be able to save interest that we may end up paying later when we issue the city hall bond. It’s not an issue of really giving the city more debt than what our plan is overall for the next two years. It is just merely shifting it from one year to another.”

The council unanimously approved the issuance of sales tax revenue bonds for the fire station.