by Max Brantley
Clayton Johnson, president of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, delivered a message to the Little Rock Board of Directors yesterday that's worth reading. It's about thinking of impact fees -- not just citywide, large sewer rate increases -- to help pay for new sewage treatment plants to serve areas yet to be developed in Little Rock. (The city board has delayed a vote on the latest rate increase.)
His statement is on the jump.
LETTER TO CITY BOARD
The proposed sewer rate increase on tonight’s agenda has been discussed publicly for months and in some arenas for years. The Coalition realizes the need to maintain the system of wastewater collection and treatment. We also realize that the federal court has mandated many improvements to our city’s sewer system to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows and protect the public’s health. Therefore, the Coalition is in agreement with you that these improvements are needed.
However, what is not being discussed tonight is the forward-looking planning that must begin with the construction of the new treatment plant in the Little Maumelle basin. This treatment plant is to be built in phases and the first 25 percent, a four million-gallon/day facility, is part of tonight’s rate increase. This phase, and the three following phases will bring high quality sewer service to tens of thousands of acres in western Pulaski County. Yet, on the other hand, by giving sewer treatment service to the Little Maumelle Basin, your decision tonight lays the foundation for decades of new development. It will, in fact, make possible the building of another city, in western Pulaski County, equal to the population Little Rock today.
The question that the Coalition pleads be put on your agenda is how future sewer service is to be financed by development in the long term. Tonight you are choosing to make every ratepayer in Little Rock share equally in the cost of a treatment plant that only serves about 25,000 existing homes. Tens of thousands more homes and other development will emerge over future decades and will be served by this treatment plant in western Pulaski County. Will sewer users in east, central and southwest Little Rock be continually asked to pay higher sewer rates as the treatment plant is expanded?
Thus, it has become clear to the Coalition that now is the time to seriously study and implement impact fees for the partial financing of sewer treatment in the Little Maumelle Basin. Only half of this first phase will serve existing sewer customers. The treatment
plant’s other half, costing millions, will serve yet-to-be-identified users. Especially in the case of a public utility, such as sewage treatment where the service is easily measurable and each customer’s use determined, the cost of present and future service needs should be financed by users whenever and wherever possible.
We are, therefore, asking that your 2007 budget should include a feasibility study by engineers and accountants to stimulate adoption of an impact fee schedule for sewer treatment in the Little Maumelle Basin. This approach is clearly feasible based on the
practice of other Arkansas cities; it is both a financially sound and fiscally responsible method to finance such infrastructure needs and is also fair to the other sewer users in Little Rock.
Therefore, the coalition is requesting tonight that you please include an amount in your 2007 budget to fairly apply sewer charges in Little Rock by ordering the expert development of an impact fee structure for sewer treatment in the Little Maumelle Basin?