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Pima to hike sewer user fees 38% by Jan. 2010

Citizen Staff Writer



Pima County residents’ sewer bills are going way up.

The county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday for a series of three user fee increases totaling 38.25 percent starting in March.

That means an average bill of $20.25 would increase to about $29.07 by January 2010.

Sewer rates are based on your water consumption. Average water consumption is 800 cubic feet per month, or nearly 6,000 gallons of water. That’s enough to fill half of an average backyard swimming pool or 12 small backyard spas.

The dramatic increases are needed to raise revenues to build a treatment plant to replace the obsolete facility at Roger Road, increase capacity at the Ina Road wastewater treatment plant, and upgrade both to meet federal standards for wastewater discharge into the Santa Cruz River, the county says.

Most of the cost of the improvements, estimated at $720 million, are required by tougher federal standards for treated wastewater and the need to replace or expand aging infrastructure.

“Most of the program is regulatory in nature, not growth in nature,” Michael Gritzuk, director of the county’s Regional Wastewater Department, told supervisors.

The supervisors steered clear of imposing increases on sewer connection fees because new construction in the region that would cover the connection fees is virtually flat.

“A multiple of zero is still zero,” Democratic Supervisor Ramón Valadez said.

Republicans Ann Day and Ray Carroll voted against the increases.

“I clearly understand the need to pay for the regulatory mandates,” Day said later, “but it is a matter of how we pay for the billion dollars in improvements, and I’m not certain we have done all we can to minimize the increases to the ratepayers.”

Day’s reference to $1 billion is the amount the improvements likely will end up costing the county after the expense of bonding to raise money for the projects.

“We don’t have many options in front of us today,” board Chairman Richard Elías said.

Elías has criticized county policies that he said put off maintenance of infrastructure, especially in older areas of the community, in favor of expanding the system to accommodate development.

“Ratepayers have carried the costs for the development industry,” he said Tuesday. “If we’re going to hurt ourselves in the bond market, I think we have to be careful with that.”

Supervisors OK a 38% hike in sewer user fees by January 2010


Sewer use fees are based on monthly household water consumption measured in cubic feet multiplied by 100, represented by the acronym ccf.

The county department used a consumption figure of 800 cubic feet per month to approximate a typical household’s usage.

The schedule of basic service charges and sewer use increases:

• March:

Increase the basic service fee by $1.50, from $6.82 to $8.32.

Increase the sewer use rate for a typical residential customer from $1.679/ccf to $1.893/ccf.

This will increase the typical residential bill for 8 ccf by $3.21, to $23.46

• July

No increase in the basic service charge.

Increase the volume rate from $1.893/ccf to $2.14/ccf.

This will increase the typical bill for 8 ccf by $1.93 to $25.39

• January 2010:

Increase the basic service fee by $1.50 from $8.32 to $9.82

Increase the volume rate for a typical residential household from $2.134/ccf to $2.406/ccf.

A typical bill for 8 ccf monthly use would increase by $3.68 to $29.07.

Source: Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department

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