Fairview raises sewer rates by $5.50 per resident

FAIRVIEW—The Fairview City Council raised sewer rates $5.50 per resident per month at its Thursday, May 18 meeting.

“I know it’s a hardship,” Mayor Cliff Wheeler said.

The reason for the increase is to qualify for a grant and loan with the Community Impact Board to meet phosphorus requirements imposed by the state of Utah.

The monthly service charge for sewer service will go from $49.50 to $55, according to the resolution to raise the rates. The rate increase includes an annual increase of 1 percent of the previous year’s rate for the next five years. This means that in 2022, the amount will be $55.50; in 2023, the amount will be $56.10; and so on until in 2026, when the amount will be $57.80. (See associated chart.)

These are the new prices of sewer rates in Fairview over the next five years.

The city was advised to do 6 percent, rather than 1 percent, based on the cost increases that the city found in other cities, said Justin Jackson, Fairview water and sewer superintendent, in a public hearing that preceded the meeting. But the city thought that it would be an easier pill to swallow, Jackson said.

The increase does not apply to people 65 years old and older and with a tax filing gross income of $25,000 annually or less, according to the resolution, which created a “Senior Assistance Program” to allow for the exemption.

The city has looked over the last “probably” four years at different ways of meeting the phosphorus requirement, Jackson said.

“The cemetery will never be able to meet the expectations of the public without a guaranteed water source,” Jackson said, explaining that the reuse plan the city is doing will solve the issue while simultaneously meeting the federally imposed requirements on the city.

The city has three to seven times the amount of phosphorus that it is supposed to have after the state in 2017 passed a new phosphorus requirement regarding discharged water from a sewer treatment facility that is not legume. The city has until April 2023 to comply with the rule, Jackson said.

Once the water is treated, it goes out into the San Pitch River, but the state is saying that cannot happen any longer. The council had to reuse the water, so the city is using it for irrigation, according to the city.

The grant amount will be $1.87 million and the loan will be $1.06 million for 30 years at a 0.5 percent interest rate, Jackson said.

“This proposed rate increase is what it takes to pay off the proposed loan portion of it,” Jackson said.

The city council would have needed to turn down the grant money had they decided to not do the increase, Jackson said.

A lot of the increase is based on the medium adjusted gross income. The medium adjusted gross income for Fairview is $48,900, which is the second-highest income for any city in Sanpete County, Jackson said.

Also, if the council had decided not to do the increase, they would have had a short time to come up with an additional plan. Willful neglect of not addressing the total phosphorus limit requirement would have been a $25,000 per-day fine, a cost amounting to $40 per person, Jackson said.

Resident Kristie Johnson said in the hearing that the city previously said that the cost of the sewer system was going to go down. But “the cost is rising every year,” Johnson said.

Jackson provided nuance to her comment, saying that between now and 2045, every time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or state of Utah requires a higher purity of water or an additional requirement, the cost would continue to go up.

“By 2045, most of your bonds will go up and that’s when you are looking at possibly things being cheap,” Jackson said. “But until 2045, we pay about $250,000 a year in bond payments.”

CARES Act Funding

Holly Sweeten, outreach director for Rep. Burgess Owens, was at the meeting. Wheeler asked her to talk about the new federal CARES Act money.

Sweeten said that earmarks have been brought back as a “funding chain” because each member of Congress could put in for up to 10 submissions annually.

“Each community or each county or city will apply for a project that will basically enhance their infrastructure,” Sweeten said. “We are here to help you fill that application out if you see some needs in your community.”

If you apply this year, then Owens can get you the money in Sept. 2022, Sweeten said.

Councilman Brad Welch asked Sweeten about the American Rescue Plan. Sweeten responded by asking if the funding will come through the state. Wheeler corrected her, saying the funding will come federally.

“I don’t know about how that is being dispersed, but you can email me and I can get you the person who would be most expert in that in D.C. to understand that better,” Sweeten said.

Stop Signs Re-installed

The council also decided to put two stop signs back up on 300 South and 400 East going eastbound and westbound. In Fairview’s April 15 city council meeting, residents complained about the city taking down signs on 300 South, though the city had done a traffic study before taking them down. At the March council meeting, the council accepted a plan prepared by Councilman Matt Sorensen and Police Chief Steve Gray showing where traffic signs should be placed in town and where others should be removed.

Councilman Mike MacKay, saying he lives in the general area where the signs will be re-installed, said he would like to see the signs put back in both directions.

“If they want to take off like a dragster, that’s another issue,” MacKay said. “But I definitely think stopping the [traffic] on 3rd South [would be good].”

Sorensen agreed.

City Manager

The council also discussed the need for a city manager or city administrator. It ended with Wheeler saying, “So I have the council’s approval to go forward with this” but Welch then said right afterwards, “For a city administrator.” “We’ll figure it out as we go along,” Wheeler replied.

The council also approved a tentative budget ending June 30, 2022. It also set a work meeting for 6:30 p.m. June 9 at Fairview City Hall, with a public hearing on the budget being planned for the June council meeting.