REGULAR MEETING OF THE
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
OF THE TRI-CITY SANITARY DISTRICT
Monday September 3, 2018 5:15 PM
Tri-City Fire Department - Claypool
Much information, but even more questions came out of the
well-attended meeting of the Board of Directors of the
Tri-City Sanitary District last Monday.
Jeff Hays of the USDA spoke extensively, setting the record
straight on what he termed were inappropriate or inaccurate
portrayals by local medial, specifically articles published in
the local paper. Among the bullet points:
Timing- Hays said the project will not take longer than
forecasted. The forecast was for 3 or 4 years to complete
once the project begins. He said it's more likely to be one to
Increased costs- a report that the project might cost $92
million was a figure Hays said he'd never encountered-in
conversation or in any forecasts. He went on to explain the
USDA eligibility requirements for projects. Each one is
assessed individually, and is a combination of grants and
loans. 57.5% grant, 42.5% loan. But in the event that costs
exceeded expectations, grants not loans would make up the
difference, thereby not further burdening the district. In real
numbers, Hays said the updated figure is $69 million, total.
The total debt load is $33 million. The rest is grants.
Not using Miami's plant will be more expensive- Hays said
the USDA looked at the project in several ways, and doing it
in conjunction with Miami or doing it independently was
basically a wash, costing maybe $200 more to do it
Extra expense in Tri City having an uphill plant- Hays said it
was a non-issue as Globe and Miami's plants are also gravity
fed systems. He elaborated on costs saying that 60% of the
system's building costs come from the collection system-
getting waste to the plant, which would be the same
regardless of which plant was used. 24% of the cost would
also not change either way- the cost of going on to private
property and demolishing existing septic tanks and
cesspools. The plant itself would cost $4.5 million.
But the heart of the issue was not what the system might
cost, but what will happen if a system is not built. Blight,
already a major problem in the region, would increase, as
would health issues, existing systems would fail and could
not be rebuilt, and when it came down to building a system
or having the area uninhabited, the cost would be
significantly greater. In Hays' eyes, it's not a matter of “if”
but “when”. The money is now available not using it would
be a costly mistake.
What would it cost property owners? The base figures to
repay the loans and operate the systems come out to $61 per
dwelling unit per month, which would be split between an
assessment in property taxes, and a sewer bill covering loan
repayment and metered usage. Unlike many similar
projects, hookup expenses including demolishing onsite
systems would be at no cost to the property owners.
All of that belies one question raised in the audience: Who
in this district can afford to pay for this? In an area of aging
homes and stagnant incomes, the money isn't there. It's not
that homeowners won't pay, it's that they can't. 'Nobody in
this town is going to be able to pay,' asserted one attendee
echoing the thoughts of a Miami resident about the costs of
their system, 'When it comes to buying medicine or paying
my sewer bill, it's not a choice. I need the medicine.'
With exasperation, Hays enquired, “So what's your
solution-don't have a sewer system?” That's right, retorted a
couple attendees. But ultimately doing nothing means the
extinction of the area, so while emotions run high, it's not a
Nor is it the end of the money worries- with the increase in
home values will come an increase in property valuations
and taxes based on them, making it even harder for folks to
hang on to homes.
As was evident at the meeting, the money concerns though
well founded are hardly resolved. But there's a bigger issue:
the district itself. The boundary lines include properties,
which are already serviced by existing systems, both in
Miami and in Globe. And Hays was adamant that the USDA
would not permit customers on an existing system to migrate
to a new system.
Such individuals would not be getting a sewer bill from
Tri-City. But as almost half of the loan repayment funds
come from property assessments in the district, they will be
getting a tax bill, for services they cannot receive. Hays
said, if you're not getting services but can get them later
(such as properties in Phase 2 and 3 of the project), you'll
pay a reduced rate. For properties that can never get service,
Hays says owners can take it up with the board. But for
most, that's easier said than done. At any rate, nothing is in
place now to afford that option.
And that's not the only boundary dilemma, as the contingent
from Globe including the mayor pointed out when the Globe
City Manager firmly requested that the forthcoming
boundary map for the Tri-City Sanitary District be drawn so
as not to include properties currently serviced by Globe.
That request, while logical and fair, is larger than it sounds.
Walmart and the Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center are
served by Globe and included on Tri-City's map. If future
maps do not include those big users, exactly how big is the
pool from which the loan repayments will be drawn?
In theory, all the affected property owners get to vote on
this- not at the ballot box, but through the right to protest.
Public hearings exist for that purpose. Written notice is
required. Most likely, meetings will start in October.
One attendee suggested the best solution would be to give
every homeowner $2 million to move out of town. It'll cost
less, he quipped, but added more seriously, what ever
happened to area pride? We used to be vibrant, now we can't
revitalize an infrastructure?
Hays seconded that, suggesting residents drive through the
area with a fresh set of eyes, seeing it as an outsider might.
Why would people stop here? If locals don't care, why
should an out-of-towner?
The key, according to the USDA is regionalization. 'This is
more than Tri-City's problem. It's Globe's problem. Tri-City
is the gateway to Globe on Highway 60. It's Miami's
problem. We all have a stake in this and we need to come
together as a region because we are one,' said Hays.