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Hayden’s sewer hike meets opposition

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | August 11, 2020 1:00 AM

Some say they can’t afford higher rates

Some residents are objecting to the city of Hayden’s proposal to increase sewer fees that will go before the City Council tonight.

“I know my voice will not be heard in a meeting,” wrote Hayden’s Penny Spencer. “I am hoping my note may be read here and now, though. You just got a raise on the sewer. I am a widow on Social Security — That is all! No pension. Income is very limited. I live in Leisure Park, and a lot of us are in the same fix. Why can’t the new houses and people pay extra for sewer and leave ours alone?”

Others agree.

“I am a widow on a fixed income,” Cydell Chambers wrote on his bill before sending it to the city. “Please do not raise our sewer rates.”

“I think (the) rate is high enough,” urged Hayden resident Bonnie Jo Pappel. “I vote no. Many are struggling.”

The proposed increase would raise monthly rates on residential households to $49 from $45.50 per month. Because the utility is billed every two months, residents using the base amount of water will see their bi-monthly bills rise to $98 fro $91. Commercial properties will see a rise on a roughly similar scale, as well, should the council vote to approve the increase.

City administrator Brett Boyer, who has written the staff document to council outlining the reasoning behind the increase, said the new rate would reflect the next step in the city’s plan to pay for keeping Hayden under federal compliance.

“The primary purpose is to pay for the permit requirements,” Boyer told The Press. “It’ll pay for the new filters: Our phosphorus, for example, has to be below a certain level. Those are the difficult portions to meet.”

The city’s portion of the upgrades to the Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board’s Atlas Road plant reaches more than $9 million, a price tag that will need to be paid off over the next five years. Similar rate increases have been mapped out through 2026, ranging from $5 monthly increases each year to $8.

Portions of the increase will also go to operations and maintenance costs, as well as to pay off a lawsuit settlement with the North Idaho Building Contractors Association. Boyer emphasized the upgrades would take up the lion’s share of the allocations.

“The lawsuit, that drops after four years,” he said. “We’re going to be paying part of $20 million for the upgrade of the plant. The settlement and the legal fees run around $1.3 million. The cost of keeping Hayden compliant with federal regulations is really what’s driving the increase.”

Council member Matt Roetter, however, said the lawsuit set the stage for the increase, adding that the costs NIBCA tried to collect through the courts over the course of more than seven years was something the city couldn’t afford to pay twice.

“That monthly sewer rate increase is the way the city will recover the costs of the lawsuit with the North Idaho Building Contractors Association,” Roetter said. “We can’t give money away unjustifiably. We had to defend ourselves against it. Now it’s costing the taxpayers, and that’s something I want the taxpayers to know: The city is not at fault for that. The city is not the ones that filed the lawsuit.”

The Hayden City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall on Government Way.

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Roetter