A measure to move to a sewer district going on May ballot

Editor’s Notes: Jeff Kelley, quoted in this article, is a co-owner of Community Pioneer Publications, Inc., and sits on the East Idaho Regional Wastewater Authority board as a representative for the city of Shelley. He has been a member of that board since Nov. 2017.

SHELLEY — Shellyites and everyone else tapped into Shelley’s sewer system, such as parts Ammon Bingham and Bonneville Counties, will get to vote on some major changes to how the sewer system is governed and paid for in the May election.

Over the last several months, Shelley City Council members have gone door to door asking locals who own five acres or more to sign a petition. That petition was to put a measure on the May 17 ballot as to whether or not the East Idaho Regional Wastewater Authority should become a sewer district.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, District Judge Dane Watkins signed the order to put the measure on the ballot. 

EIRWWA currently owns and operates the transmission lines and treatment facility for sewerage running from parts of Ammon, Bonneville County, Bingham County, and Shelley. The organization is a joint partnership of the cities of Ammon and Shelley and the counties of Bingham and Bonneville.  

“For years, EIRWWA tried to become a sewer district so it could more effectively operate the transmission lines and processing plant for sewerage flowing from parts of Ammon, southern Bonneville County, northern Bingham County, and Shelley,” EIRWWA board member Jeff Kelley said.  “However, the four entities got bogged down in disagreements and politics and really didn’t come together until about two years ago.” 

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Kelley, who joined the board in November of 2017 at the request of Mayor Stacey Pascoe, said the Mayor asked him to move the board toward a district. 

“Mayor Pascoe felt the authority should become a district because it would better represent more effectively the people who connect to the sewer.  And, I agree,” Kelley said.  “Plus, DEQ requested as part of our ongoing agreement with them that we actively pursue becoming a district.” 

Those who will vote on the measure are everyone living in Shelley, the half of Ammon that ties into the sewer system and those living within Bingham and Bonneville Counties that are either tied into the sewer line or live within 300ft of the line.

WHAT DOES A DISTRICT DO FOR THE VOTERS?

“Both Ammon and Shelley want a sewer system that runs at top functionality, that has a good working board that provides good representation and can obtain better funding than the joint-powers agreement does currently,” Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti said. 

Currently, only the cities of Ammon and Shelley can bond to fund the expansion of the plant.  The counties cannot bond. However, much of the new commercial development in the EIRWWA area has been in the county. 

“The entire northern intercept line from Shelley to Sunnyside Road, by Exit 116 is in either Bingham or Bonneville County. All of the development in this area has occurred because private money has expanded sewer service in this area. The problem is if another bond is required to expand the plant, none of the property owners in this area would be taxed as they are in the county and not the cities of Ammon or Shelley,” Kelley said.  “It’s absolutely unfair for citizens within the city to pay for sewer upgrades while those in the county only have to pay a hook-up fee and monthly charge.  As a district, everyone within it will pay their fair share should a bond be required.”

WILL THE SEWER DISTRICT RAISE YOUR SEWER BILL

“The sewer district formation will have no fee increase with it,” Coletti said. “Now a new entity could propose a budget that has a typical fee increase in it. But, the new district formation does not include a change to any fee structure. This proposed district is strictly for better representation in the sewer board for the sewer users.”

The idea of a sewer district was proposed by the founders in the beginning. However, when the Iona-Bonneville Sewer District backed out of the new regional plant in 2005, plans for a sewer district halted.

Mike Price

Mike Price is an award winning journalist from Shelley. He is now one of the founding members and Editor-in-Chief of the Community Pioneer.

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