Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna explores its water and sewer expansion fees

The fees are a single charge to people who are newly or differently demanding or utilizing the services of the city’s water and sewer system

The Soldotna City Council requested and received a preliminary study of the expansion fees it charges to users for modifications or new developments on its water and sewer system that indicate its fees could be raised.

Shawn Koorn, of HDR Engineering, delivered a presentation on expansion fees to the council during their regular meeting on Wednesday, June 12. City Manager Janette Bower said the information was provided in response to requests by council member Dave Carey, who had considered pursuing an ordinance to amend the fees in January.

Expansion fees, Koorn said, are a single charge to people who are newly or differently demanding or utilizing the services of the city’s water and sewer system. An example he provided is if a bookstore with a bathroom and a small kitchen for employees were renovated to a restaurant or coffee shop — the demand and capacity would be significantly larger.

“The point of this charge, or these fees, is to fund that capacity-related infrastructure, or improvements that are in place today, to provide that level of service,” he said.

In “very preliminary” calculations that would need further and more detailed study — “nothing I would recommend you adopt” — Koorn said the fees could be increased.

Koorn noted that Soldotna’s fees haven’t been updated in a long while, but also that the city doesn’t need to push those fees all the way to the calculated maximum allowable — which he defined as the highest level of fee supported by his firm’s calculations.

As a matter of policy, he said the city can adopt a fee less than that calculation, sharing the cost of growth between existing and new customers.

A comparison of existing fees and “maximum allowable” fees showed possible increases as high as 580%. The fee for expansion of a water service line that’s ¾ inch in diameter is set at $250, the calculated fee is $1,455.

“The preliminary calculation does show that the fees could be increased,” he said. “Going forward, again, you’d need more of a formal study, update all the assumptions.”

Carey said that, seeing the data provided, he wants to see the conversation continue. He said the city’s water system sees use beyond the city limits, that the city is seeing significant development through efforts like the Riverfront Redevelopment Project, and that the gulf between the existing and possible fees is significant.

“We need to be very clear on the capacity we have, as an entity providing water and sewer, and what we foresee in the future,” he said. “I as a member of the council request that we spend time clearly looking at these numbers, clearly looking at the capacity in the future that we need.”

“I feel we have more work to do on this.”

A full recording of the meeting and presentation is available at soldotna.org.

This story was edited Monday to remove the word increases from its headline and first paragraph.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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