Sewer rates are on rise in Liberty Lake.
On Wednesday, sewer commissioners approved increases that were bad news for developers, and not quite as bad for homeowners.
Commissioners approved a $3-a-month increase for households – less than half the $6.50 that had been proposed by a rate consultant.
While those ratepayers may be relieved, developers will start picking up a share of the tab for the new $11 million treatment plant.
The increases will also help pay additional costs for meeting emerging phosphorus removal standards for plants discharging into the Spokane River.
Sewer commissioners voted to increase hookup costs for residences from $3,700 to $4,552. The increase makes the fees the second highest among six Spokane and North Idaho utilities.
Developers who own prepaid, but unused, sewer capacity will pay a $15 monthly fee per dedicated residential unit. The fee applies to about 974 units, with 300 owned by Liberty Lake Investments.
Jerry Neal, attorney for Liberty Lake Investments, accused the district of using the prepaid capacity for other customers, saying it will be collecting money twice if developers are charged for unused units.
“You’re getting the best of both worlds,” said Neal, who added, “You’re selling capacity you don’t even have.”
Commissioners responded that they hadn’t sold any capacity that belongs to those developers and are still below the million-gallon capacity of the treatment plant.
Commissioners postponed voting on whether to ban dishwasher detergents containing phosphorus, saying they didn’t like the wording on the proposed resolution.
But they took testimony from several residents who supported the ban, which is largely symbolic but has served as a rallying point.
Phosphates fertilize unwanted algae, which is depleting oxygen in Spokane River and Long Lake, a downstream reservoir that’s also known as Lake Spokane. Phosphates are difficult and costly to remove from wastewater.
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