Fraser board talks fee changes for water and wastewater
Fraser town trustees appeared to be amenable to the possibility of a graduated fee structure for water and wastewater tap fees during a hearing on March 3.
Municipal financial consulting firm Ehler’s Inc. is currently conducting a study on development fees in Fraser.
Paul Wisor with Ehler’s sought the town board’s input on what an equitable fee structure would be.
Trustee Jane Mather said she felt the focus of fees should be reducing housing costs for the Fraser Valley’s workers.
“I think that, given that they rarely earn a living wage in our community and their employers claim that they can’t afford to pay them a wage higher than $10 an hour, there might be some subsidy towards affordable housing through lower tap fees that are less than what others are paying,” Mather said.
Trustee Cody Clayton Taylor said he felt affordability should take priority over reducing new construction costs.
“Someone that’s building a 5,000-square-foot house is paying the exact same plant investment fee as someone that wants to build a 12,00-square-foot house,” Taylor said. “I think that makes it unaffordable and an unattractive place to want to come and build and live and basically just progress.”
Local developer Clark Lipscomb, one of the most vocal proponents of a graduated tap fee structure, said he felt the board was muddling the issue of affordable housing with improving its tap fee structure to grow its user base and increase tap and service fee revenues.
“I would separate the two because I think they’re independent of one another,” Lipscomb said.
Wisor also asked the board whether it was the role of a utility to reduce the cost of living in Fraser.
“I think it can help,” said Trustee Philip Vandernail.
Regarding attainable housing, Mayor Peggy Smith said a graduated fee structure “could be a mechanism that would work.”
Wisor asked whether the board was trying to foster attainable housing or reduce all construction costs through fee reductions.
“It would be nice to have a solution for both,” said Trustee Katie Soles.
Taylor said that the town was aiming to address both goals with a single solution.
Lipscomb said he wanted to see the town make more money on its water system by increasing its user base.
“To me, it’s abusiness model,” Lipscomb said. “It’s not that hard. You need to sell more widgets – in this case, water service and sewer service fees.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.
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