The University Place City Council passed a resolution asking the Pierce County Council
to increase sewer service charges citywide by $5.50 per month
(effective January 1, 2006) in order to create a capital facilities fund for the purpose of financing sewer extensions
to unsewered areas of the city. The action was prompted by reports of continued failures of septic systems in the city
that could affect surface and ground
water quality including environmentally sensitive areas such as
streams, creeks, wetlands, shorelines, aquifers, and plant and wildlife
The money generated by the rate increase will subsidize the cost of connecting to a sewer line for those properties still on septic systems. Without the subsidy, the cost to either connect to sanitary sewers or repair a failing septic system is estimated to range from $15,000 to $35,000. The City Council also approved a mandatory connection ordinance that
requires property owners to connect to the sanitary sewer system when a sewer line is extended to within 300 feet of their property. When the connections are made, homeowners on septic systems will pay an additional charge of $5.50 per month for every month they remained unconnected. For example, someone who connects in October 2006 will pay an additional $55 to connect to the sewer system.
Sewer construction in University Place dating back to the 1970s originally received considerable federal grant assistance coupled with ULID financing. Federal funding for these types of projects is no longer available and forming a ULID to pay for all of the project cost is prohibitive. By establishing the capital facilities fund, the city is attempting to bring the costs of connecting to the sewer system down to a level similar to that of the federal financing days. This makes it feasible for homeowners to connect while at the same time ensures the community’s groundwater and environment will be protected.
University Place residents already pay one of the lowest rates in the county’s sewer utility service area, not to mention the region. Even increasing rates by $5.50 per month, rates in University Place will still be lower than most surrounding communities.
When the County Council approves the capital facilities charge, the city and county will work with the community during fourth quarter of this year to develop a set of criteria and priority projects for implementation beginning in 2006.