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City Council Gives Final Nod to Sewer Rate Hike

Residential rates rise from $297 this year to $600 in the 2011-2012 property tax year, and up to $685 by 2015-2016.

The Mill Valley City Council gave the final nod to a massive hike in sewer rates Monday night, capping a  in time to get the increase on the 2011-2012 property tax rolls, which begin July 1.

The council approved a revised rate hike that will see residential sewer rates rise from $297 in 2010-2011 to $600 in 2011-2012, a 102 percent increase. The council had pulled back from an even higher proposal from City Hall, citing sticker shock in an economic downturn in which a host of taxes and fees are going up, including  and .

City officials said the additional revenue was vital to pay for an overhaul of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. That work is expected to cost approximately $2.25 million a year over at least the next 10 years, according to city officials.

Although the new rates take effect July 1, the first property taxes to include the rate hike are due in December.

"That gives people some time to save up for this increase," Councilwoman Shawn Marshall said.

The council has vowed that the city will institute flow-based sewer rates next year, allowing the rates to be adjusted based on the amount of wastewater a residence produces. Commercial entities already operate under flow-based rates, which encourage conservation.

The city is also offering a low-income credit system for those that meet low-income requirements that match those established by Pacific Gas & Electric's CARE program. The low-income credit system could be worth as much as 25 percent of the annual sewer rate, city officials said.

The vote concluded a process that began in early February, with city officials citing rising costs from the  (SASM), the joint powers agency that collects and treats wastewater for approximately 28,000 residents in Mill Valley and five neighboring sanitary districts, as well as more stringent state regulations and an Environmental Protection Agency order issued in the wake of SASM’s massive 2008 spill of more than 3 million gallons of wastewater. The spills resulted in a $1.6 million fine.

The lion’s share of the rate hike goes towards an overhaul of a large chunk of the city’s 59 miles of sewer pipes, much of which dates back some 50 years. Under a mandate from the EPA, the city did a video-based inspection of 12.6 miles of its sewer lines as a basis for determining a sewer repair plan. The survey found the system to be laden with a variety of defects, including cracks, holes, blockages and tree root intrusion.

Under the council-approved plan, the city raises its rates as follows: $600 in 2011-12, 677 a year in 2012-13, $677 a year in 2013-14, $685 a year in 2014-15 and $685 a year in 2015-16. 

Rico June 22, 2011 at 01:07 AM
I think that the rate increase is needed, because the sewers have been neglected for many years. We have some pretty bad locations of public streets in Mill Valley, and the City has been doing a very good job of defining and improving many streets, albeit slowly. There are dangerous drop offs that need new guardrails, catch basins and storm drain pipes that need new, and some just need to be installed as planned, but were never completed. Traffic flow is important, but not as important and upgrading our 87 miles of surface streets in the City of Mill Valley. The City has just diligently completed jet rodding all the sewer lines recently, and is going to start all over again. It takes a lot of work to keep the existing sewers flowing, and with major improvements our system will be more reliable and free up City employees to do other important tasks.

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