POLSON — The Polson City Commission has proposed tripling the city’s water and sewer rates to pay for a $19 million wastewater and sewage treatment plant needed to meet federal discharge regulations that take effect in 2018.
A standing-room-only crowd attended Monday’s commission meeting at which the new rates were discussed, the Missoulian reported.
Residences that use less than 5,000 gallons of water pay about $30 monthly for water and sewer. The proposed new rates for the same usage would be in the $90 range.
Many at the meeting wanted to know how the city expected young families, those on fixed incomes, landlords and businesses to pay three times their current water and sewer rates starting in August.
One resident questioned the effect the increase would have on new businesses and real estate prices.
“You have to look at the overall economic impact,” Linda Peterson said. “I’ll bet not one of us would complain about a $10 increase — $15 even — but this is too much.”
Many residents complained that the city has known since at least 1999 about the deadline for meeting new Environmental Protection Agency regulations for water being released into the Flathead River, but commissioners had not addressed the issue and potential costs.
“People probably knew in 1980 that we were going to need to improve” the lagoon system, said former Mayor Pat DeVries. “We have to protect the river.”
Polson businessman Steve Shumante wanted to know: “Who’s been dropping the ball for the last 20 years?”
The city has applied for more than $1.3 million in grants to help with the costs, but that leaves almost $17.7 million left to pay for the new system.
Republican state Rep. Greg Hertz of Polson encouraged the city to fight the EPA’s water quality standards.
“I’m sorry — we all want clean water and clean air, but this is too much,” he said.
Commissioners had scheduled the final reading of the resolution for Monday, but tabled it until its July 21 meeting.
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