|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 17 June 2009 13:15|
The Camp Verde Sanitary District has come a long way since this time a year ago.
District Chairman Gregg Freeman summed it up at a recent public hearing in which no one stood up to speak.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a public hearing that only lasted 15 seconds,” Freeman said, Maybe we’re getting boring?”
That’s not a bad thing, considering the district last year found itself the target of public anger, a recall election, an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality-ordered construction shutdown, structural failures at the new wastewater treatment plant and an expensive sewer expansion project.
Things seem to be moving along much more smoothly these days. The sewer expansion project is complete, and the new plant is set to come online by October.
It’s been a long road.
“I’ll buy the bottle of champagne if we can find a corner of [the plant] to bust it over,” joked board member Dick Rynearson.
Even though times are tight, the district was able to approve a budget last week that actually slightly lowered the sewer tax rate.
It helps now that the expansion project is finished; Comfort Inn and Days Inn at the Interstate 17 interchange have hooked up to the new lines, along with other businesses.
Others will wait until the new plant is online, Freeman said.
Connection fees, which have been low compared to other sewer systems, will increase next year but remain the same for at least 12 more months, the board decided.
The district also got the news last week that it will be receiving a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office, said district employee Jan Grogan, money that will be used to replace an aging sewer line that runs under the White Bridge along State Route 260. It’s the same sewer line that sprang a leak twice in the past two years, spilling sewage into the Verde River and causing a headache for the district.
That’s especially good news, Freeman said, because the grant means the district won’t have to use part of an extra $2 million borrowed and approved by voters to help pay for unexpected cost overruns in getting the new plant operational.
There’s good news on other fronts as well. Sanitary district employee Marshall Davis said that after months of struggling to get the mosquito problems under control in the plant’s wastewater lagoons, the most recent count only turned up a total of two mosquitoes.
The board is also hoping to take advantage of lower interest rates and refinance its loans through Arizona’s Water Infrastructure Finance Authority, a measure also approved by voters.
It’s a move that stands to benefit the Town of Camp Verde, which pledged to give $135,000 a year to the district for a quarter century.
With a lower interest rate, the town could end up saving as much as $15,000 to $20,000 a year, Freeman said. It all depends on what the actual interest rate is when the refinancing deal is closed, something Freeman hopes happens by July 1.
In other business, the board directed staff to devise a plan to address the growing number of overdue sewer payments, currently costing the district thousands of dollars.
Freeman said that a lot of people likely pay the sewer bill last since they figure there’s no way to shut off sewer service.
While Freeman said he would only want to use it as a last resort, he suggested that the district look into the possibility of digging holes and physically disconnecting service to customers who are unreasonably past due.
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