Keeping toilets flushing: Sewer rates to go up 45 percent in St. George next month

Stock image | Photo by Djedzura/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

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.

This 2017 file photo shows the St. George City Hall, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2017 | St. George News file photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

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.

Read more: New arsenic treatment plant near Gunlock would add water sources for St. George

This 2012 file photo shows the city of St. George Wastewater Treatment Facility in St. George, Utah, Aug. 1, 2012 | St. George News file photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

“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.

In this 2015 file photo, St. George News No Filter Show co-host Paul Ford separates solid waste at the St. George Wastewater Treatment Facility during the show hosts’ visit to the facility. St. George, Utah, February 2015 | St. George News file photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

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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  • IPFreely June 22, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Get those business tha waste water… sprinklers watering parking lots, toilets and sinks running. It’s ridiculous how much water they waste

    • NotSoFast June 23, 2018 at 9:14 am

      Oh just pay up your fair share IPFreely. And keep your toilet clean.

  • hiker75 June 23, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Higher sewer rates? That stinks!

    • jaltair June 23, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Not as much as sewer flooding streets because the old pipes break down.

  • youcandoit June 23, 2018 at 9:53 am

    You would think as the city grows more people more money and cheaper rates. Obviously it’s the opposite more people higher rates what evs

    • comments June 23, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      it’s the same with the school system. A massive influx of old childless retirees creating a massive new prop tax base, and yet they cry and pout about needing tax hikes across the board. absurd

  • Proud Rebel June 23, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    What? No increases in golf course fees?
    Shows who actually runs the city.

  • Mike P June 24, 2018 at 9:52 am

    This is the part I always have trouble with. They always need more money to ” replace aging infrastructure”. So, what was being done with the all the sewer taxes we’ve been paying all along? If they were maintaining the system properly, as we were told our money was going to, then why would it need to be replaced? I understand things don’t last forever but I also know that properly maintaining things prevent replacement. Maybe you should look into whos “maintaining” things here. It’s also shouldn’t be too difficult to find out how & why 400′ of sewer pipe broke. Was it replaced with just another 400′ of faulty pipe ? Just wonderin’.

  • jaybird June 24, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    There goes the tax breaks! Meanwhile corps are making a killing. And who’s pay8ng for this?

  • Uncle Rico June 24, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Maybe it’s time for new top of the line city vehicles, the old ones gotta be at least 1-2 years old. And their construction equipment is probably dirty so they need to be replaced as well.

  • Thecadean July 9, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Glad to hear these newcomers in growth don’t affect the Saint George budget.?? We’re all going to pay for it one way or another or cry more traffic more cost. Suggestion raise developer fees let the newcomers pay their way. Less impact on existing homeowners

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