Thursday, August 1, 2013

Neighborhood activist: Time for Little Rock to adopt sewer impact fee

Posted By on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 6:47 AM

JIM LYNCH: A plea for sewer hookup charge.
  • JIM LYNCH: A plea for sewer hookup charge.
I give the floor this morning to Jim Lynch, former city government administrator, retired academic and eternal civic activist, on the Little Rock Board of Directors vote next week on a sewer impact fee.

It's a simple proposal and so routine that even growing cities in Republican Northwest Arkansas use such fees to build reserves to help blunt the cost of future growth. Little Rock, in its annex-to-Fort Smith strategy, has never put a sufficient charge on new developments to pay for their additional burden on city services. The famous mantra: "It will pay for itself." It never has.

So now the city is considering some modest fees for first-time sewer hookups. The small charges will be passed by builders to buyers, naturally. The $275 charge for a new home might add a dollar to the cost of a 30-year mortgage payment.

We know the immense cost of not providing a fund for the future. That occurred when Little Rock sprawled into a new drainage basin in the west and gravity flow to the existing treatment plant wasn't possible. A new plant had to be built.

Read what Jim Lynch has to say.

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BY JIM LYNCH

Next Tuesday at 6 pm, August 6th at City Hall is a very important date. The LR City Board of Directors next Tuesday will consider adoption of a sewer impact fee ordinance. This ordinance will provide much needed
(and long overdue) balance in the financing between "new growth territories" in the city and long-established neighborhoods.

The impact fee will levy a one-time $275 charge at real estate closing on a new house built on lots never before connected to the sewer system. The fee is earmarked to pay for sewer system-wide infrastructure
(large trunk lines and pumps, retention basins and sewage treatment plants) built because of the growing number of customers to the sewer system

Maumelle Basin / Watershed is the Sewer Growth Area

The LR Sewer Commission in 2008 first studied the desireability of a sewer impact fee to help pay for growth. The resulting ordinance now in front of the City Board is timely because construction of the new Maumelle Sewer Treatment Plant located in the Maumelle Watershed has opened up 80 square miles for potential sewer service. The Maumelle Watershed is estimated to potentially hold 145,000 new residents. There is little doubt the Maumelle Watershed someday will be annexed into LR. (See attached map and data)

The question is (and always has been) — who will pay the bill for LR's future growth?

Sewer Impact Fee is Tiny Amount

In the Maumelle Watershed, high-end homes likely will be valued $250,000 and higher. A $275 add-on will change a $250,000, 30-year mortgage (4 percent interest rate) only by only $1 in the monthly payment. This sum is a burden on no one.

A Financial Balance is Achieved Among New and Old Sewer Ratepayers

The impact fee will relieve some of the need for higher sewer rates as LR grows. Historically in LR all neighborhoods have paid the same higher monthly sewer bills when debt was necessary for growth infrastructure). The ordinance will more fairly allocate the costs of growth to growth territories. Neighborhoods 20 miles away from the Maumelle Watershed should not have to pay the same higher sewer bills for treatment plants and trunk lines they do not and never will use.

Would you please review the attachments to this message [map above] and then contact as many city directors as you can and urge their support vote FOR the impact fee ordinance? Your individual message or a letter of support from your neighborhood association will influence this important vote next Tuesday.

Yours for Fair City Growth and Fair City Finances,

JIM LYNCH
Vice President
Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods

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