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New sewer pact will cost River Heights households $234 more/year

October 19th, 2015 Posted in Opinion

By Melanie Fenstermaker

RIVER HEIGHTS — Based on citizen input at a public hearing last week, some River Heights City Council members said they might consider voting to abandon the city’s current wastewater deal with Logan, even though the proposed new agreement will cost property owners more money.

The Council voted 4-to-1 in August to maintain its current 50-year-old wastewater contract with Logan, which expires in 2025, rather than signing a new, more costly 30-year contract with Logan and five other Cache County cities.

A few Council members later expressed concern that citizens should have been involved in the decision-making process, and the issue was reopened for discussion. Citizens were invited to provide input at last week’s public hearing via a letter from Mayor James Brackner, and the Council resolved to have a final vote later with citizen opinions in mind.

Ten citizens who showed up last week to discuss the wastewater contract issue with the Council informally voted 6-to-4 in favor of the new contract, according to Brackner’s count.

Under the proposed new wastewater contract, River Heights residents would pay $10.64 more per month ($234.08/year) from 2017 to 2025, according to Brackner’s letter to citizens.

After hearing what their neighbors had to say, Council members Robert Scott, Blake Wright and Geoff Smith, who voted in August to keep the old contract, said they might reconsider. The Council will vote on the wastewater contract at its 5 p.m. meeting this Wednesday (10/21/2015).

“I was surprised by the number of residents who are on fixed income that were in favor of us abandoning our current contract and going to a new one,” Wright said.

Even though the city has little voice on the multi-municipality wastewater rate-setting committee because River Heights is so small, Wright said, many residents seemed willing to pay more for a new wastewater treatment deal so the city will be represented. In his letter to citizens, Brackner said the city will have no voice in rate negotiations if it does not sign the new contract, which may make River Heights seem “uncooperative” when the city negotiates a new contract in 10 years.

Resident Roger Pond said it might be worth it for the city to “bite the bullet” and increase costs now as a favor to future citizens.

“I dislike a rate increase as much as anyone else,” Pond said. “However, I think of the folks in 2025. It just seems like, to take care of it now and have a seat at that table, even though it’s a small seat, might be a favor for those who follow us.”

But Council member Dixie Wilson said she will not change her vote.

“I don’t think it’s going to make any difference whether we sit on the rate committee or not, and so I feel like we should keep our contract as long as we can for the citizens of River Heights to keep the best rate that they can,” she said.

Resident Lucia Rhodes expressed concern that Logan was “bullying” the city into signing the new contract.

“At what point are we going to protect ourselves from this kind of bullying?” Rhodes said. “I recognize that they’re bigger than we are and it’s their equipment that we’re running our wastewater through, but I think it’s naïve of us to think that we don’t have some power here by sticking to the contract we agreed to.”

Brackner said it might be possible to balance the higher sewer rates with a less expensive fire services contract with Logan, whose fire department covers River Heights. He said he would raise the question of fire service costs with Logan before Wednesday’s Council meeting on sewer rates.


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