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A motion to deny a base-fee waiver request was passed at the January 4 meeting of the Salmon City Council. The vote count was three to three and the tie was broken with a ‘yes’ vote by Mayor Leo Marshall. The motion was worded in a way that a ‘yes’ vote meant no to the request which caused some confusion at the time therefore the letter requesting a waiver for utility base fees was reconsidered at the Council’s February 1 meeting.

After an in-depth review on how base fees were established and why, the vote following the discussion was more definitive in that the council voted unanimously to deny the waiver request.

The home on 9th Street was torn down late last Summer and construction began on a new dwelling. The owners had the impression that since the water connection had been turned off no monthly fees would be required. When informed that impression was incorrect the home owners asked the city for a waiver of base fees from September through December of 2016.

In answer to questions raised by the council City Clerk Mary Benton explained the monthly fee is for the city making water and sewer available to a property whether or not the services are used. As an example, the water is still available when Winter vacationers come home and turn on the tap.

A total cessation of service involves digging up the line, capping it and removal of the water meter. Because of the work involved for city crews, connections and reconnections cost around $2,000.

Benton said when the city went to the bonding process for borrowing money to improve the water and sewer plants and bring them into compliance with current standards; the monthly fees were calculated on the number of city residents. Costs to the city include bond payments as well as on-going maintenance of the plants. To determine what the monthly service fee on each property should be the total costs were divided by the number of city residents. If the monthly income exceeds the costs the overage is put into savings for future plant needs. Benton said base rate fees in Salmon are comparable to other Idaho cities.

Council President Jim Baker stated that by going through the bonding process, residents of Salmon have already agreed to pay back the bond. Councilman Rob Jackson said the reason the initial hook up fee is high is that residents are buying into an existing system others have been supporting. Councilman Neal James thought that the question of how much should be saved for future needs should be addressed. Councilman Russ Chinske felt more should be done to better inform the public about how fees are established and what they fund. Councilman Jim Bockelman said the topic needs further discussion.

It was later decided that water and sewer base-rate fees will be placed on the February 15 City Council meeting agenda.

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