Council considers sewer expansion
September 10, 2020
On Tuesday, the Cathlamet Town Council was brought to order by Mayor Dale Jacobson in his first full meeting back since a recent health issue. No ordinances or resolutions were included on this week’s agenda, but the revamping of the town’s sewer rate and expansion plan spurred plenty of discussion.
Additional items included a presentation announcing initiation of upgrades to the Pioneer Community Center; old business included a discussion of a $31,000 contract with Ricoh USA, Inc. to convert town documents into electronic form; new business included discussion about restaurants' effect on late night activity on Main Street and possible local and state code violations; they also tabled the approval of a right-of-way permit for multi-day yoga classes at Erickson Park.
Presented during the workshop portion was a 2016 report by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) suggesting that the town either increase sewer revenue or decrease its expenses if it wished to avoid losses. Clerk/Treasurer Sarah Clark stated that the town brings in barely enough revenue from sewer rates and believes any less would insufficiently cover operational and maintenance costs. Council members then revisited the idea of expanding the sewer system to Boege Road to acquire new customers.
Council Member Laurel Waller reminded the council of a 2008 estimate provided by Gray & Osborne, Inc., a consulting engineers firm in Washington, to build the new infrastructure which is estimated at $1M. In addition, Council Member Waller continued, it would cost an estimated $2M to connect each house.
The council acknowledged the financial burden placed upon Boege Road property owners who would be responsible for hooking up their homes to the new sewer system. Only a few homes, however, are connected to the town’s sewer system while the remaining properties utilize septic systems.
Town Attorney Fred Johnson proposed the formation of a Local Improvement District (LID) “as a method for financing extensions to the town’s sewer system.”
In this process, an assessment would be levied against property within the boundaries of the proposed district. The cost must be at least equal to the increase in property value resulting from the improvement, around $13,000. Additional costs to property owners would include the physical hook up, $5,000, and a county imposed fee, $3,000, to compensate the county for financing a sewer main extension years ago.
Johnson admits the situation is a conundrum: the town wants to acquire more sewer customers but it must charge them to acquire that business.
If the city were to move ahead with the LID, a protest by 60% of the aggregate property value in the boundaries of the district would end the process. In other words, property owners who collectively make up 60% of the proposed district have veto authority.
Waller proposed the council form a committee along with representatives from the county and public utility agencies to re-ignite the conversation. The goal of the committee would be to update the consultant’s initial report and investigate additional expansion and financing models before making any decisions.