December 11, 2013

City ups water, sewer rates

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Last year, the city of Watford City increased its water and sewer rates in large part to help offset the cost of the new Western Area Water Supply Authority infrastructure. This coming year, water rates will again be increasing, not only to continue to help pay for the city’s water, sewer and trash pick up, but also to help fund infrastructure improvements for a still-increasing population.
“The city’s water, sewer and garbage rates will be increased starting on Jan. 1, 2014,” states Justin Smith, superintendent of Public Works.
The city of Watford City is required to operate its public utilities in such a fashion that it is self-supporting and self-perpetuating. According to Smith, the city’s Public Works Department has grown to meet the needs of the city’s growing population. And therefore, its fee scale has had to be adjusted as well.
“The AE2S engineering firm did a scale, based on some textbook standards of how to account for wastewater treatment, water usage and trash disposal, and slightly adjusted it to fit our user types,” states Smith.
In the new rate structure, basic water service for a residential home will be raised to $3.92/1,000 units in 2014 from $3.24/1,000 units in 2013. Basic water service for commercial properties will jump to $3.92/1,000 units in 2014 from $3.24/1,000 units in 2013.
The new sewer service rates for both residential and commercial properties will be raised to $2.15/1,000 units in 2014 from $1.56/1,000 units in 2013.
Smith states that, for the most part, the rate increases are similar to the rate increases area residents saw in 2013. What is different, according to Smith, are the hook-up fees for new construction and/or change orders.
“What used to be the sewer connection fee has been replaced with a sewer access fee,” states Smith. “The fee will affect any new construction or any new usage or change of usage that increases the flow.”
So anyone building a completely new residence or commercial business will now be assessed a fee. Additionally, anyone changing a business from something like an office to a restaurant, would be assessed the difference in the type of service, and be charged a fee.
While the city’s new rate structure will not be applied until the first of next year, the city’s new fee scale was adopted on Oct. 1, 2013. According to Smith, the fees will help the city pay for its new wastewater treatment facility slated for completion in 2015.
Currently, the city of Watford City uses a lagoon pond to dispose of its sewer. However, that system is maxed out, and has been nearing maximum capacity for some time.
According to Smith, the city has been trying to stay ahead of its wastewater infrastructure needs, but the lagoon ponds cannot be expanded anymore to meet the city’s growing population. The next necessary step to increase Watford City’s sewer infrastructure is a wastewater treatment facility.
Smith states that the preliminary design of the city’s wastewater treatment facility was approved at the last city council meeting, and approval was given to proceed with the remainder of the design.
“The project will bid late in the summer of 2014, and hopefully, be completed by late 2015,” states Smith. “We will have to continue with our current method of discharge until the facility is built.”
The new sewer access fees vary depending on the type of development. A coin laundromat, for example, will pay a one-time connection fee of $4,503.89 per machine, while a commercial laundry service will pay a one-time connection fee of $7,206.22 per machine. Single family residences will be charged $2,256.59, to hook up, while a new restaurant will be assessed $315.27 per seat.
The new sewer access fee scale, as well as the city’s new utility rates, are available online or at the Watford City City Hall.