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Clark County sewer agency seeks OK for series of rate hikes

Updated January 28, 2019 - 12:12 am

The Clark County Water Reclamation District is seeking its first rate hike since 2012 to help expand and improve the state’s largest sewer system.

The district plans to spend $1.47 billion over the next 15 years to increase the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant at the eastern end of Flamingo Road, install 27 miles of new service lines and replace or rehabilitate 57 miles of existing pipes.

To pay for the work, the district wants to raise the annual service charge for more than 248,000 homes and businesses in unincorporated Clark County by about 30 percent over the next 10 years. The proposed increase would add between $6 and $7 a year to the annual bill of the average residential customer through July 1, 2028.

The district also wants to increase its connection fee from $2,195 to $2,876 over the next three years.

The county commission, which serves as the district’s board of trustees, is slated to vote on the proposal on Feb. 5, after a 10 a.m. public hearing.

The first round of higher service charges and connection fees would take effect on July 1.

Advisory committee urged hikes

A citizens advisory committee convened by the district in June recommended the rate and fee increases.

The committee included 11 people representing a cross-section of sewer customers and interest groups.

“They made it very clear that this is a function that’s necessary, and it’s one that’s reasonably priced,” said Terry Murphy, who served as facilitator throughout the committee process.

District general manager Tom Minwegen said the average residential customer spends about 61 cents a day for sewer service. The annual rate hike would add less than 2 cents a day to that, he said.

The district plans to use the revenue to fund 62 separate capital projects, including a $505 million expansion of the district’s Flamingo Water Resource Center, which treats about 104.5 million gallons of sewage of a day.

The district wants to increase daily capacity at the plant from 120 million gallons to 150 million gallons, expanding, in the process, a vital link in the community’s water-supply chain.

The Las Vegas Valley earns so-called “return-flow credits” for the wastewater it treats and returns to Lake Mead. For every gallon the Flamingo sewage treatment plant discharges into wash, the community can draw another gallon of drinking water from the lake to use in the valley.

‘The unseen utility’

The reclamation district serves more than 257,000 residential and commercial customers countywide. It has a full-time staff of 383 people, an operating budget of $83.8 million and tends to be taken for granted, said district spokesman Marty Flynn.

“We’re the unseen utility,” he said.

In addition to the Flamingo Road plant, the district operates sewage treatment facilities in Blue Diamond, Indian Springs, Laughlin, Moapa Valley and Searchlight.

County commissioners last approved a multi-year sewer rate increase in 2008, but the district ended up not needing all of the additional money, prompting a 4 percent rate reduction in 2013.

Even with the rate hike, district customers would still enjoy some of the lowest sewer rates in the country, according to data from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

The utility charges $221.09 a year for residential service, the lowest rate among Nevada’s largest municipal wastewater agencies. The proposal up for approval Tuesday, would push that annual charge to $290 by 2028, which is still less than what customers already pay in Henderson, North Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City and Washoe County.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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