Mt. Pleasant council hears public input on sewer rate hike, will finalize in June
MT. PLEASANT —A proposed sewer rate increase was the primary issue at a public hearing last Tuesday, May 23, on the 2017-2018 Mt Pleasant city budget.
The proposed budget includes an increase of $6.50 in the base rate charged to all connections. That increase will raise the base rate from $10.50 to $17. Under the proposal, after this year, the base sewer rate would go up 5 percent per year automatically. The budget also calls for increases in overage rates.
The reason given for the rate increase is that the rate has been raised only once since 1982. In that time, sewer system maintenance has been grossly neglected and now, major repairs are needed.
Sam Draper, Mt. Pleasant public works director, explained the need for the increase. While noting that the sewer rates in Mt Pleasant were lower than in every other community in Sanpete County, he said “I don’t believe in raising rates because everyone else’s is higher.” But he said neglect of the sewer system for years made the rate increase a pressing concern.
Mt. Pleasant City Treasurer Dave Oxman said that just to break even with the projected cost of needed maintenance, the increase would have to be to at least $15—far less than the amount proposed.
Councilman Kevin Stallings said with such a small increase, the sewer fund would have “no rainy day funds in it.”
Maintenance to the sewer system would inevitably identify more things in need of repair, Stalling said, adding, “It doesn’t do any good to identify a problem if you can’t fix the problem.”
Jeff MacDonald, former council member and a perennial opponent of any tax or spending increases, was at the hearing. “I don’t think there should be any raise,” he said.
He contended the increase proposed in the new budget was be more than the community could bear. Instead, the city should look to cut other parts of the budget. “We should tighten our belts elsewhere,” he said.
Councilman Justin Atkinson responded to MacDonald. He said that the increase was to rectify the past neglect of the system. The addition of a 5 percent yearly increase was designed to avoid hitting citizens with a huge increase all at once.
Except for past negligence by prior city governments, the increase would not be necessary, he said. “Infrastructure is the lifeblood of a community. We shouldn’t kick the can down the street anymore.”
Mayor David Blackham added that according to state law, any community has to run its enterprise funds (i.e. utilities, sewers, roads) separately from the general fund. A city cannot draw funds from the general fund to cover costs of repairs or maintenance in utilities that are designed to be self-supporting.
At the end of the hearing, Mayor Blackham reminded those attending that the budget would come up for final approval during the city’s June council meeting.