Paso sewer connection fees come under scrutiny



The winning bid for the Paso Robles sewer upgrade came in $3.1 million under budget, but city staff warned that developers shouldn’t expect a major break on connection fees. Under the current plan, the fee the city charges a developer to hook up to the sewer will increase from $7,600 to $10,900 per dwelling unit by 2016.

Those figures come from a 2011 study by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants. Developers complained almost immediately that the firm did a crappy job in coming up with the sewer connection fee estimates.

When the council eventually approved a bid under budget, the same developers asked the city to fork over $40,000 to a Berkeley auditing firm to take a second look at the calculations. The Paso city council voted May 21 to instead spend just $8,400 to peer review the methodology used by Kennedy/Jenks to come up with the projected $3,300 increase.

“I can’t support spending the $40,000 just to look at this thing again,” council member John Hamon said.

The council will consider whether to take a second look at the connection fees once the project nears completion.

Hamon and Mayor Duane Picano objected to spending any money at all until the city really knows how much the upgrade will cost. The other three members voted to at least spend the $8,400 to find out if the initial assessment was bunk.

“We need as much accurate information as possible,” council member Ed Steinbeck said.

Lead wastewater engineer Matt Thompson explained the city sets connection fees based on the value of the entire system. The $47 million upgrade brings the total value of the system to $230 million, according to city staff. The city’s savings, therefore, would only reduce the connection fees by about 1.35 percent.

“The apparent savings on the wastewater treatment plant upgrade comprises a very small percentage of the total cost that determines the facility charges,” Thompson said.

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