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

Mill City approves October sewer rate increase

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The Mill City Council has approved a sewer rate increase to take effect Oct. 1 in preparation for the financial burden of expanding its wastewater treatment plant capacity.

Approved unanimously during the council’s regular meeting July 26, monthly sewer rates will increase 10 percent, from $46.54 to $50.20.

A second increase to $60 per month may be considered as sewer expansion moves forward, depending on how much the city may need to borrow for the project, according to City Recorder Stacie Cook.

Around $3.5 million is needed to reach a total funding goal of $7.5 million, with the first $4 million already secured through various state, county and federal grants and the city’s own capital improvement reserves. 

Officials have been working with community development organizations such as Business Oregon to finalize a funding package to reach their goal.

The council has also discussed an increase in system development charges, paid when a permit is issued to connect a to a sewer main, to help offset improvement costs, however, no action was taken by the council during the meeting. 

The last time these charges were evaluated was in 2010, and Cook said the current rate of $1,622 is comparatively low.

The city learned of the imminent need to expand the sewer system in September 2021, after a study found the plant was operating at 94 percent capacity. Officials hope to expand the system in time for a residential development boom expected to begin at the end of this year and avoid the need for a moratorium on new construction requiring new sewer hookups.

The bulk of the $7.5 million is needed to purchase and excavate around 32 acres for a drainfield to comply with Department of Environmental Quality pollution regulations, as the area has porous soil that presents a significant pollution risk for the North Santiam River. 

The city also plans to install a modular sewer plant to operate in parallel with the current facility and other system upgrades.

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