Assessment costs still up in air<br>Protest period ends Nov. 15

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

Jack Stary, Hank Hoover and Chuck Chandler look over sewer district boundaries on a map at Tuesday's Camp Verde Sanitary District special meeting.

Bond Counsel Fred Rosenfeld told about 30 residents at the Oct. 30 Special Meeting of the Camp Verde Sanitary District that he had hoped to have the assessment costs ready but the consultant had not yet completed his work. He wouldn't commit to an exact timeframe but said the figures should be available soon.

More than 300 business and residential property owners will benefit from the new sewer lines. That includes those who live in Reddell Ranch Acres and Fort River Caves subdivisions as well as existing businesses at the Interstate 17 and Arizona 260 interchange.

Rosenfeld explained in more detail the way the assessments will be charged, known as the assessment methodology. He told the audience that they needed to thoroughly understand the assessment methodology in the event they wish to protest any aspect of the proposed sewer project. Notices were posted along rights of way around town earlier this week to alert citizens that the protest period ends Nov. 15.

The current board has pushed the sewer expansion project forward overcoming numerous obstacles. The project has been in the planning stages for several years. It not only includes the addition of new lines and service, but improvement to the existing sewer plant as well. The plant along East Arizona 260 will be expanded to .65 million gallons per day and will include a new office for the district.

Rural Development committed a loan of $4,641,500 to the Camp Verde Sanitary District for a 25-year period at 4.5 percent interest or less, and there is government commitment for a grant of $1,447,500. The project will be paid back with special assessments levied against benefiting properties in the areas to be served.

Rosenfeld told residents that they can pay the assessment up front or pay it over a term of 25 years on their tax bills. He explained that under the current situation, he believes a person selling a home can transfer the tax assessment liability depending on the lender's willingness.

The project will be divided into three construction contracts:

• Contract One: The northern portion of the gravity sewer system from Dickinson Circle to the point where the sewer system enters the Reddell Ranch Acres Subdivision. Current estimated cost: $953,183.

• Contract Two: The southern portion of the gravity sewer system and local collector lines in Reddell Ranch Acres Subdivision and Fort River Caves Subdivision, extension of the gravity sewer to the Tres Rios neighborhood to the New Main Street Pump Station located near the intersection of Salt Mine Road and Arizona 260 and the removal of the existing Main Street Pump Station; Finnie Flat Road and Tres Rios pump stations; the new Main Street Pump Station. Curent estimated cost: $1,594,642.

• Contract Three: The new 16-inch force main to the treatment plant; expansion and upgrading of the existing wastewater treatment plant. Current estimated cost: $2,415,850.

Additionally there are incidental expenses estimated at $863,800. Not every property owner will bear the costs of all portions of the expansion project, Rosenfeld explained.

Assessment costs in specific areas will be based on a unit median, Rosenfeld said, and even undeveloped lots such as Harvard's proposed development will be expected to pay a proportionate segment of the costs that will spread out the project dollars. When built out, the assessment district will be 891 users, according to Board Chairperson Suzy Burnside.

Monthly sewer rates for old and new customers could be adjusted upward or downward based on the district's true operating costs once the project is completed. The current charge averages about $9 per month for a single-family residence.

Burnside, with clarification from husband Bob, a commercial plumber, told audience members that the rates are based on "fixture units," according to the uniform plumbing code adopted by the Town of Camp Verde.

For example, one spigot in a house can equal one fixture unit or several according to the amount of liquid and waste disposed into the sewer system. A bathtub, for instance, said Bob Burnside equals two fixture units as does a shower stall. The expected rate cost per fixture unit is 70 cents for residential and $1 for commercial.

Some homeowners have paid into the assessment district for years via an "ad valorum" tax and have repeatedly asked for a credit from the district. The argument has not been resolved. One gentleman stated he had paid $1,800 to date at about $69 annually.

Although, the board does not plan to credit these residents, board member Wes Mauldin who lives in Fort River Caves, intimated that when the matter of "hook-up" fees comes up on the Nov. 14 agenda, he expects to fight for a "waiver" of hook-up costs for those who have paid in all these years.

When questioned about what benefit the new costly sewer will have to nearby residents, another board member, George Young, suggested that as the government becomes more concerned about leeching into water sources, government mandating is likely.

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