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New plant may double, triple Oak Harbor sewer rates

By the year 2020, Oak Harbor residents could pay anywhere from $86 to $116 a month to flush their toilets.

Shawn Koorn of HDR Engineering spoke via Skype during last week’s special workshop on the future wastewater treatment facility and laid out the many variables that could affect the rates residents pay for sewer service.

What’s clear is that the rates will more than double, and possibly even triple, in the next eight years to pay for an estimated $93.5-million wastewater treatment facility. The current residential rate is $36.52 a month.

The City Council voted last week to build the state-of-the-art, membrane-bioreactor plant next to Windjammer Park downtown in the area of the old Chevrolet dealership.

Koorn explained that the biggest variable is Navy participation in the project. The city currently manages the sewage treatment at lagoons on the Navy’s Seaplane Base. The Navy contracts with the city and pays a rate in exchange for the treatment of sewage from Navy property.

In an interview last week, City Engineer Eric Johnston said Navy officials are aware of the city’s plans, but they haven’t made any decision about sewage treatment. The Navy could continue to operate the lagoons on their own, or work with the city.

Under the best case scenario, Koorn estimated that the Navy would contribute $17.5 million to the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. That would result in an estimated rate of $86 a month per household by 2020.

If the Navy only contributed $8 million, the rate would increase to $92 a month.

In a not-so-great scenario, Koorn said rates could more than triple to $116 a month by 2020 if the Navy doesn’t contribute anything and the city gets a 20-year bond at 6 percent. At a more-realistic 4.75 percent, the rate would drop to $104. A 30-year bond at 5.25 percent would further lower the rate to $98.

Koorn pointed out that the numbers don’t take into account possible grants or low-interest loans. Johnston told the council that the city can start pursuing grants now that the sewer siting decision is made.

 

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