By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Developers in Windsor will be getting a break when it comes to hooking up to sewer service.
The Town Council recently reduced connection fees for a new single-family home by 29 percent and authorized some lesser reductions for multi-family structures and new businesses.
“It’s a good way to go,” Vice-Mayor Steve Allen said. “I’m very supportive of it.”
The Town Council unanimously approved the new rates last month, revising the methodology for establishing fees.
The Reed Group, a consulting firm, essentially recommended a new formula that excludes the estimated costs of planned projects.
“At this point, most of the facilities that are needed to provide capacity are in place and so new development is really utilizing existing capacity that exists in the system,” consultant Bob Reed said.
“The alternative methodology really looks at the investment already made in the facilities and charging new development on that basis,” he said.
Public Works Director Richard Burtt said Thursday that “we built what was needed for development into the future years ago.”
But following upgrades to the wastewater system, some of the underlying assumptions and basis for the current fees — which were established in 2000 — failed to materialize.
For instance, Burtt said new construction essentially stopped over the past five years during the recession and its lingering aftermath.
As a result, there is a deficit of approximately $2 million in the town capital account, representing the lack of fees from new construction projects that were anticipated.
As new development ramps up, that deficit is expected to be erased and reserves increased, Burtt said.
He said the revised fee structure puts Windsor into better alignment with the fees in neighboring cities.
Instead of a three bedroom, single-family dwelling paying $14,952, the new fee in Windsor will be $10,560.
According to Windsor engineers, that compares to $14,968 in Cotati for the typical single-family home; $14,773 in Santa Rosa; $12,232 in Sonoma; $10,613 in Rohnert Park; $9,202 in Healdsburg; $8,878 in Petaluma; and $8,804 in Cloverdale.
Healdsburg last summer also lowered its fees after hiring the same consulting group.
The new formula, known as “system buy-in,” is fairly common and appropriate when excess capacity is in place and infill development is the norm, Reed said.
He said the current Windsor wastewater system serves the equivalent of more than 8,660 single-family dwellings. About 25 percent of the system capacity is not being used, he said.
The new formula takes the current value of assets and divides it by the current number of customers to derive a “fee equivalent” for new projects, on par with existing development.
He recommended the town consider updating its calculations every three to five years to account for higher levels of treatment or other upgrades.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.