Study could lead to lower sewer fees

By Karen Brainard

Sewer connection and mitigation fees that have been blamed for stifling business growth could possibly be reduced if the Ramona Municipal Water District conducts a fee study, said its general manager, David Barnum.

At its Jan. 8 meeting, the water board authorized Barnum to obtain estimates from qualified third party consultants to conduct a fee study as the next step in the long term master planning process for the Santa Maria Wastewater Reclamation Plant. Barnum said he hopes to bring the estimates to the board by early March.

“We’re hoping that through the fee study there’s the potentiality the fees may actually come down in the future,” he said.

A $20,000 per equivalent dwelling unit (EDU) fee is required for all new sewer connections within the Santa Maria boundaries to help pay for the plant’s expansion. Of that, $5,432 per EDU is a connection fee and $14,568 per EDU is a mitigation fee.

The plant was targeted for a three-phased $34 million expansion to handle additional capacity due to growth forecasts and because the plant exceeded flows during a wet weather time period in 2005.

In June 2012, however, Mike Metts, the district’s contracted engineer, told the board that the expansion may not be needed in the near future because of slow growth. He also said  the overflow in 2005 was probably due to stormwater infiltrating the system.

Improvements are still needed at the plant, he said at the board’s Jan. 8 meeting, but at an estimated cost of $16.5 million.

   
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