The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly agreed Monday night to introduce an ordinance that would increase fees for sludge-pumping.
Borough residents with septic systems should get the tanks pumped out about every three years. Residents outside of city limits now pay a quarterly $45 fee for sludge pumping. If they use the service every three years, that adds up to $540 for each pump.
On top of that, the borough pays $767 per pump. Assistant Borough Manager Cynna Gubatayao says that demand has averaged about 300 pumps per year.
She says the program has survived, financially, in part because some people aren’t taking advantage of the service.
“There are roughly, maybe as many as 40 percent of the people paying into the program are not participating and they are subsidizing the cost to individual homeowners who are participating,” she said.
In the interests of health and public safety, the borough wants homeowners to use the pumping service. Gubatayao says the borough plans to increase efforts to encourage residents, and she hopes to get at least 50 more homes pumped per year.
But, that will eat up the subsidy, and the overall costs are going up, as well. Hence the proposed fee increase. If the fee increase is approved in second reading on Jan. 5th, the quarterly cost for homeowners will go up to $57.18.
That means over three years, an individual homeowner will pay $686.18 for the service.
Assembly Member John Harrington was the only vote against the fee increase, and against a contract with Shoreline Septic Services to conduct the pumping. He says he has always opposed the borough’s sludge program.
“I think we need to get out of this business,” he said. “I think we need to move toward enforcement, which would consist of not only making sure they’re pumped, but making sure they’re operational, and making sure we don’t have health and safety issues regarding drain fields. That’s the key to me is the health and safety issue, not the fact that we keep pumping.”
Assembly Member Mike Painter suggested that the City of Ketchikan should look into signing onto the borough’s program for residents of the Shoreline area. That area was annexed into the city, but doesn’t have city-provided water or sewer services.
Also on Monday, the Assembly talked about a proposal to develop borough-owned property off Revilla Road. The borough is negotiating details of the proposal with Ward Cove Group, but some on the Assembly are hesitant about the plan.
Assembly Member Todd Phillips says he would like to see the 300 acres parceled into smaller pieces, which might allow other developers to bid on the property.
The borough last week voted to give Ward Cove Group six months to negotiate with the borough, and come up with a more detailed proposal.
Also Monday, the Assembly voted to cut $13,000 worth of expenses from the annual Legislative Fly-In lobbying trip. That money would have paid for a reception and dinner.
The next regular Borough Assembly meeting is Jan. 5.