McWoods Sewers: Residents with “STEP” Systems Likely to See Surcharge in 2010

The city inherited responsibility for the systems under a development agreement.
By Chris Henry
chenry@kitsapsun.com
PORT ORCHARD
The Port Orchard City Council is contemplating what to do about 605 homes in McCormick Woods whose septic systems the city services.
The cost of the the service, formerly covered by a 50 percent surcharge on McCormick residents’ sewer bills, fell onto the city’s plate when McCormick Woods was annexed in July and the surcharge went away.
McCormick Woods was not alone in paying the sewer surcharge, and the extra 50 percent was not directly tied to the septic servicing. All South Kitsap residents who live outside Port Orchard but receive sewer and water service from the city pay a 50 percent surcharge on those utilities.
The city council in 2010 will likely add a new surcharge applying only to those 605 homes to cover the cost of inspecting and pumping the septic systems.
The homes in question have a type of sewer system — called STEP for “septic tank effluent pumping system”— that includes an onsite septic with a connection to the city’s sewer line. Solids are processed in the septic tank; liquid waste is pumped to the sewer line and delivered to the treatment plant operated jointly by Port Orchard and Westsound Utility District.
Before the sewer, effluent from the STEP systems was pumped to a community drain field.
An additional 30 homes yet to be built are also vested to have STEP systems.
The remainder of homes in the McCormick Woods annexation area have grinder pumps that deliver liquid and solid waste to the sewer line.
Like any septic system, the STEP systems need periodic maintenance and repair. The city inspects each system every three years. While most people with septics are responsible for servicing their own systems, the city inherited responsibility for the McCormick systems under a development agreement that existed when the sewer line went in.
Before the annexation, revenue from the sewer surcharge paid by all McCormick residents more than covered the cost of servicing the STEP systems. The current annual cost is about $72,000 per year.
Public works director Mark Dorsey gave a summary of the STEP system and its financial implications for the city at a work study meeting Tuesday. According to John Clauson of the city’s public utilities committee, the council plans to address the STEP service cost in its 2010 budget.
Before the end of the year, city utility customers — including those in McCormick Woods —will see an increase in their bimonthly water and sewer rates to make up for the loss of McCormick Woods’ utility surcharge revenue. The increase — $3.50 for water and $7.50 for sewer — will replace an estimated $280,000 to $300,000 per year in revenue lost through the annexation.
While the McCormick Woods surcharge was in effect, the revenue generated more than made up for the septic service cost, in effect subsidizing service for other city sewer customers to the tune of about $128,000 per year, Dorsey said. That helped keep rates down. Now everyone, including those in McCormick Woods, have to share in making up that lost revenue, but only those who have the STEP systems will pay the additional charge for that service beginning in 2010.
Also in 2010, the city must address revenue needed for improvements to the sewer system. Considering the poor economy, the council deferred a rate increase in 2009 that would have funded those capital improvements.

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