ST. GEORGE — St. George residents will soon be paying more for a number of city-provided services, including those related to the city’s Water Services Department.
The St. George City Council voted Thursday to increase the fees effective July 1. The fee increases go hand in hand with a newly adopted budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Monthly sewer rates, storm drainage fees, solar reliability charges and the cost to rent various recreational facilities will all go up.
A 45 percent increase to residential sewer rates represents perhaps the most impactful change as the city looks to use the fees to replace aging infrastructure. Monthly residential sewer rates will go up from the current rate of $10.68 to $15.50.
In addition to several large projects, such as the first phase of a wastewater treatment plant expansion and the construction of an arsenic treatment plant near Gunlock, Water Services Director Scott Taylor said a large portion of St. George’s existing sewer infrastructure will need to be replaced relatively soon.
“I see the storm out there ahead, and I just want to be prepared for what’s ahead,” Taylor said in a previous City Council meeting, referring to the need to replace decrepit sewer piping.
“The state of Utah did a study a couple years ago showing that there’s going to need to be $20 billion in infrastructure replacement but only about $18 billion in new infrastructure to accommodate new growth,” he said, “which means, we’re all focused on growth and a lot of us are neglecting our existing systems and not realizing that we’ve got some major expenses coming up.”
In St. George, pipe that was laid in 1968 and a couple decades afterward for developments that were new at the time, such as Bloomington and Bloomington Hills, is beginning to reach the end of its viable lifespan and will need replacement.
“Those are the areas that we’re starting to see a lot of problems,” Taylor said.
About 400 feet of asbestos-cement pipe that broke open and became inundated with gravel recently caused a major headache for some Bloomington-area homeowners as toilet water pressure was reduced and the odor of sewage filled the air.
As more of such piping is expected to fail, Taylor said, replacing it will require having an adequate reserve fund available, hence the $4.82 monthly fee increase.
In the big picture, the fee increase is relatively small, city officials said.
“Even with the big increase, we’re still 50 percent lower than the rest of the community,” Taylor said, explaining that St. George residents pay less in monthly sewer rates than those in surrounding Washington County municipalities.
“We seem to be pretty modest in controlling fees,” Councilman Ed Baca said Thursday.
Other fee increases
A few other city utilities will also see a fee increase. Storm drainage fees will be increased from $1.50 to $4.50 per residential unit, solar reliability charges will be assessed at a slightly higher kilowatt production rate and water rates will go from $1.04 to $1.14 per 1,000 gallons.
Commercial sewer rates will increase from $7.80 to $11.30 for the first 5,000 gallons and $3.92 for each additional 1,000 gallons (or $4.61 per 1,000 gallons for restaurants and other high-concentration users).
The price to use some city recreational facilities, such as The Electric Theater and the St. George Social Hall, will be assessed at an hourly rather than flat rate beginning July 1.
Several recreation division fees will also go up, including softball, pickleball and tennis tournament fees.
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