News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Mill City floats sewer rate increase for water treatment plant

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Mill City officials are contemplating a sewer rate increase to help pay for expansion of the wastewater treatment plant as the system nears maximum capacity.

Though a date to discuss the issue has yet to be set by the City Council, the Budget Committee has suggested the council adopt a 10 percent increase, which would bring rates from  $45.64 per month to $50.20 per month

This would help prepare the city for the likelihood of taking out loans to cover an estimated $3.5 million of the $7.5 million project, with the other $4 million already secured through grants and similar funding. The city is exploring alternatives to loans, but if they are obligated to borrow the full $3.5 million, rates may increase to around $60 per month.

City Recorder Stacie Cook said they will probably need a full year to pursue and secure various funding options.

“We are looking into a number of areas for additional funding including federal infrastructure dollars and grant/loan packages,” she said. “We have not determined which funding agency, if any, would be used to secure a grant/loan package. There were several options, including using multiple lenders to complete a funding package.”

Mill City learned in September, 2021, its two-decade-old sewer plant was at 94 percent capacity and able to handle roughly 40 or 50 new residential hookups before the system would consistently discharge untreated sewage. However, around 300 units of housing are either in development or planned for the next five years, including several dozen units this year such as subdivisions and state-backed low-income apartment complexes.

The city’s initial solution was to add a temporary modular sewer plant for an estimated cost of $2.4 million that could have been completed by around April. Officials sought a temporary fix because of the urgent need for a solution, the significant alternative cost of a new system, and because any improvements would become redundant after a planned regional sewer system comes online in the next five to seven years.

The plan for a quick fix was rejected by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February due to potential pollution risks. 

DEQ instead required digging a 32-acre drainage field in addition to the modular plant for a total estimated cost of $7.5 million.

Despite the increased cost and the longer timeline for potential financing, city officials expect to avoid imposing a moratorium on new construction to prevent exceeding capacity, though the possibility has been raised at previous City Council meetings. DEQ has said the city is ultimately responsible for enforcing capacity limitations, whereas their agency is only involved in regulating plans for system improvements.

Previous Article

Recovery, Recreation, Side by Side: Park access expands – slowly

Next Article

Linn County Sheriff’s Office Log: July 5 – 11

You might be interested in …

Judge rejects delay in wildfire damage trials

Trial scheduled for Jan. 8, 2024 The second phase of the wildfire lawsuit against PacifiCorp is now set to begin in January. The judge has rejected the company’s request to delay proceedings while they exhaust […]