Residential Ratepayer Savings Possible With Plans to Pay for Yelm’s New Wastewater Treatment Facility

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The City of Yelm Public Works Committee has a variety of funding options on the table to pay for the $22.2 million wastewater treatment facility upgrade. 

Combined, the measures could reflect positively on Yelm residents’ water bills. 

During a Yelm council study session on Tuesday, Aug. 4, Public Works Director Cody Colt presented a number of ideas that came from the council’s Public Works Committee, which consists of council members Molly Carmody, Joe DePinto and EJ Curry. 

Colt said they’re considering a 2.69 percent decrease in residential water rates to offset a potential sewer surcharge increase. If passed by the city council, the water rate decrease would go into effect at the start of 2021 and the surcharge would be passed around the middle of the year to offset those savings. 

The surcharge, different from a rate increase, would go directly to the project and expire exactly when the project meets its funding goals, Colt said. 

In the roughly six months between the passing of the water rate decrease and surcharge going into effect, residential customers can expect anywhere from $2 to $15 savings on their water bill. Those savings would then be offset by the surcharge.

The third idea, after the water rate decrease for residentials and sewer surcharge, would be to establish a sewer hookup fee for buildings constructed within the next two decades. 

“With growth, ideally what we would have is growth would pay for this expansion. So, as new customers come in, this bill would get paid off quicker,” Colt said. 

The last idea the Public Works Committee is considering is to divert expected savings from the installation of a bio dryer back into the wastewater treatment project. 

A bio dryer, which dehydrates sludge material into biosolids, is expected to be constructed alongside the facility. The new machine is expected to save the city about $550,000 a year in costs associated with shipping the material out from the wastewater treatment facility. 

When it’s all said and done, Colt said it’s possible ratepayers could see an average $5 to $10 less than what they currently have on their water bills if the council approved all four of the committee’s plans.  

“My plan is to always get the best bang for our buck,” Colt said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s really exciting and the Public Works Committee has been really on board.” 

The city council earlier this year passed a $1.89 million design agreement with Parametrix to design the facility, which could potentially cost upwards of $25 million, Colt said. 

If council agrees on the options, the Public Works Committee could present legislation to council for the new water rate model and sewer surcharge in the next couple of months, Colt said. 

The city is looking to begin construction on the wastewater treatment facility in May 2021.

The city’s wastewater treatment facility is currently nearing the end of its useful lifecycle and is nearing capacity. Colt said preventative maintenance, which helps the city get ahead of problems with the facility before they become drastic, has yielded about 10 percent savings in maintenance cost. 

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