Flushing Rates: Increase in sewer prices small for some, large for others as Camp Verde eliminates residential rate cap
CAMP VERDE – Camp Verde’s wastewater customers pay fees based on the number of discharge units in their home.
Discharge units – also known as fixtures – are not rated based on the quantity of water they use, said Camp Verde Finance Director Mike Showers. They are rated based on what the fixture puts into the system, and what the system takes to break down the discharge.
A single bathroom sink is rated as a 1, for example. But a kitchen sink is rated a 2. A laundry tub or a washing machine is rated 2, as is a shower/tub or a double bathroom sink. Floor drain, such as a drain in a garage, is a 3. A toilet, 4.
So a bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower is rated a 7. Two bathrooms, each with a shower or tub, would be 14 points.
The Town of Camp Verde does not bill its customers based on estimates, Showers said. But the Town does estimate that its average bill is based on 18 discharge units.
At a charge of $2.52 per unit, the average home pays $45.36 per month to the sanitary district.
Until April 1, Camp Verde did not charge its residences more than $50 in a month – even if, as Showers said, it cost the Town more than $50 to provide the service.
How are a home’s fixtures calculated? And how is the Town of Camp Verde aware of these calculations? It’s based on building permits, said Camp Verde Wastewater Manager Jerry Tinagero.
Want to build a home? The plans would include all the fixtures. Which allows the town to know the count.
Plan to add on to a home? Another permit, which includes a breakdown of the additional fixtures.
“It’s not perfect,” Tinagero said. “It’s always based on the honesty of the people.”
Though Tinagero said “there could be some errors,” anyone who
receives a wastewater bill that doesn’t look right should call the Camp Verde Sanitary District at 928-567-6794.
Flushing $94 down the drain?
In a recent letter to Verde Valley
Newspapers, Camp Verde resident Dorothy Bast asked “is it right that a person living alone in a modest neighborhood is paying $94 per month to flush his toilets?”
“How can we change this method so that customers are not so severely and unfairly impacted?” Bast also asked.
But that customer had been capped at $50, Showers said. Customer. Singular.
“We have no other bills in town that are more than $90,” Showers said.
What that means is that a home that is now assessed $94 but has been capped at $50 had the fortune of watching as his or her fellow Camp Verdeans helped pay his fair share, Showers essentially said.
“One of the battle cries has been ‘can’t we reinstitute the cap on residential rates?’” Showers said. “But you can’t reduce part of the population’s use and not increase the others.”
Is there a way for the Town of Camp Verde to set wastewater rates and field zero complaints?
“Never,” Showers said. “You can’t make everyone happy.”
Resetting the rates to eliminate the cap, Showers said, has been justifiably “frustrating” for Camp Verdeans.
“It is frustrating to be the only person in a five-bathroom house,” Showers said. How do you enforce that? But certain parts of your infrastructure, you need to contribute to. And I’m not going to propose raising the sales tax to pay off that debt.”
Showers said that maybe the town “may have to go back to some type of a cap.”
“Not based on how many people,” Showers said. “It may ultimately benefit the widow, but it may happen. It could benefit the guy pulling down $8 million. There’s no way to enforce that.”
Understanding the rates, understanding the rate increases
As of March 31, the Town of Camp Verde charged $2.25 per unit, Showers said.
A single-family dwelling, according to the Town of Camp Verde, does not include mobile homes, RV parks, apartments, duplex, triplex or quadplex.
But rates changed in April when Camp Verde’s Town Council approved two wastewater loans. One of the loans, for $2.8 million, refinanced the 2007 loan when the Camp Verde Sanitary District issued bonds through the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD) to pay for the expansion of its wastewater treatment plant and collection lines.
The second loan, for $3.5 million, was a new loan. Actually, the loan was for $2.5 million, with an addition $1 million granted – given – to the Town of Camp Verde.
“When you talk bang for the buck, it’s hard to argue with the fact that we got $3.5 million and only have to pay $2.5,” Showers said. “That loan is the sole reason for the increases.”
To reconcile the new debt, Camp Verde’s wastewater rates will increase each January to $2.90 per discharge unit in 2019, $3.01 in 2020, $3.07 in 2021 and $3.14 in 2022.
According to Showers, the upgrades are meant for the primary system (cost savings), the secondary system (sustaining the plant), increasing the system’s capacity, energy and cost savings and reduction of chlorine use.
Without the upgrades, “a lot of wear and tear on the system,” Tinagero said.
“We’re proud of our work,” Tinagero said. “To make quality water, we’re going to take our Grade B water and change it into A-plus water. You can’t drink it, but it’s good for kids to play on. It’s better, safer water.”
A complete breakdown of the planned upgrades to the Town’s wastewater facility can be found at http://www.campverde.az.gov/government/town-clerk/documents/finance-documents.
At the bottom of the page, look under ‘Other Financial Documents and Policies.’ The breakdown is called the 2018 Sewer WIFA Loan Budget.
Both loans, Showers said, conveniently expire at the same time, in 2032. Whereas the first loan did not affect wastewater customers, the second loan was to secure “much-needed finishes that actually make the plant operate like it was intended to from the beginning and will ensure the process will eliminate violations that occasionally occur,” Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin said following council’s April 18 approval of the loans.
Wednesday, Showers will update council on the Town’s Wastewater Service Fee rates. Showers will discuss the current rates, as well as fixture counts and future rate tables.
At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Camp Verde Town Council will meet in council chambers, located at 473 S. Main St., Suite 106.
A copy of the Sept. 19 agenda can be found at www.campverde.az.gov/government/town-clerk/agendas-minutes-actions/2018-town-council/.
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