City discusses changes to tap fees

Published 7:32 pm Thursday, August 15, 2019

The City of LaGrange is looking at creative ways of encouraging redevelopment of properties in the city, and on Tuesday, the council heard a proposal that would wave part of one of the fees for that redevelopment.  

On Tuesday night, the LaGrange City Council held a first reading to modify water and sewer connection charges on new developments and redevelopments in the city. 

“We have had some internal discussion recently about water and sewer tap fees, specifically looking at these fees, and trying to reach out and encourage redevelopment in the city,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said during the work session. “That is one of our goals, and the last time we made any updates to this ordinance was 2007.”

The update contained several changes to spell out parts of the process already in use in the city, but the most notable change was in policy for redevelopment of properties.

“It will discount that capacity fee for redevelopment,” LaGrange Utilities Director Patrick Bowie said. “In other words, if there is a piece of property, and there was already a home that had been on that property before, and it was torn down, and a new house or a new business was built back on that same property, we didn’t think that it was right to charge them the full capacity fee because there had been somebody on that property that had been paying for water and sewer for years. What we are proposing is that we discount that, so that they pay 25 percent of the capacity fee because there had already been a piece of building on that property.”

Bowie said that new developments on previously unused property would pay the full fee of $800, and multifamily developments would pay based on the number of units.

Council Member Nathan Gaskin asked how changes in property use — especially uses that would require higher capacities than previous uses — would be reflected in tap fees. Bowie said that discount only applies to uses that would require the same or less capacity compared to the original use. 

“It continues the philosophy that we were given by the council that you want new development to pay their own freight and to not share those costs among existing customers,” Bowie said. 

“So, when a new development comes in, they will pay their own costs for service as opposed to spreading that out among the existing consumers.”

The update will also break down the costs to developers.

“Another thing that this ordinance does is it breaks out separate pieces of the cost that was associated with new water and sewer,” Bowie said. “For instance, there is the cost of the meter. There is the cost of making the tap, and then there is the capacity fee that you guys adopted several years ago, that is sort of buying into the existing capacity of the system that is already there. The existing customers have been paying for that cost all these years, so when somebody new comes in, they pay a capacity fee, which buys them the treatment capacity of the system.”

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said that he felt the change would improve transparency of city pricing on water and sewer taps.

Finally, Bowie said the update will reflect costs that have changed since the ordinance was last updated.

“We are also updating the cost to make the taps into separate meters,” Bowie said. 

“As Meg said, it has been since 2007. Our costs have gone up a little bit — the cost of the meters that we buy. It is not going to be any mark-up, just our out of pocket cost.”

Bowie said that the update also clearly spells out backflow capabilities and responsibilities.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.