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Why sewer bills in Richmond are higher than elsewhere in Cache Valley

October 19th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Rouchelle Brockman

RICHMOND–Sewers dominated the discussion at the City Council meeting Tuesday. A resident expressed concerns about high sewer rates and an engineer warned of possible sewage problems and presented remedies.

Ryan Rogers complained to the council that sewer rates in Richmond are among the highest in the valley, making it difficult for him to keep tenants in a four-apartment complex he owns in Richmond.

Richmond residents currently pay a flat rate of $44 per household. Residents of Smithfield and Logan pay a flat rate of $21.75 and $14.44, respectively.

“It’s hard to run a business when everywhere else is cheaper,” Rogers said. His tenants must pay $44 per apartment, and the fee cannot be split between the four residences in the complex.

“If a 3,000-square-foot home is paying $44 and a one-bedroom apartment is paying $44,” Rogers said, ”that doesn’t make much sense.”

As a consequence, many possible tenants choose to live in other Cache Valley cities where the sewer rates are cheaper, Rogers said.

The council said they are sympathetic to Roger’s plight but because of a state mandate they are not able to lower the rates. Richmond’s sewer plant was built last year with $1.3 million worth of grants and a $3.6 million loan from the state of Utah. In order to pay back the 20-year loan, the state mandated the $44 per month flat rate.

Richmond was one of the first cities in the state to implement a new sewage treatment program in accordance with federal EPA regulations. The new membrane bio-reactor plant has been in operation for just over a year. The reactor works by using a bio-reactor — a micro-organism — to break down waste in the sewer water. Then the water passes through a membrane and can be used for non-culinary purposes, like irrigation, said Councilman Brad Jensen. He said the other cities in the valley use older evaporative lagoon systems.

Councilwoman Terrie Wierenga said because the other cities have older systems they may be required to update their facilities in the future, at which point their sewer rates may also increase.

An engineer hired by the city said a section of sewer near 200 South and U.S. Highway 91 could soon be operating near maximum capacity and needs to be replaced by a larger pipe in the near future.

Chris Slater, the engineer in charge of the Richmond city sewer plan, monitored all the sewer lines in the city during the summer. He determined that most of the lines east of U.S. Highway 91 are operating adequately and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but that several lines on the west side may need to be replaced or improved soon.

Mayor Mike Hall said the current growth rate of Richmond is low enough that these improvements are not urgent and may not need to be directly addressed for years.

The total cost for all of the suggested repairs could be upward of $6 million.

“We need to take care of our future residents,” Hall said.

In other business:

– The council passed an ordinance that will establish protection zones around the natural springs, wells and proposed wells that the city draws its culinary water from. Hall said this ordinance will give the city more legal ability to determine what is built around and in these protection zones. He said the ordinance may have an indirect impact on the proposed ski resort in Cherry Creek Canyon.

– A deputy from the Cache County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies have encountered fewer traffic violations in Richmond this year because they have been preoccupied with other incidences.

-Judge Matthew Funk reported that more domestic violence or dispute cases have come before the Richmond Justice Court this year than in past years.


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