An ongoing effort to assess the state of water and waste water management issues in Juneau kicks off today with three meetings intended to outline the water rate study process.
The first meeting will be a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce, the second is with the top 50 water and waste water users in the community and the final meeting is for the general public.
That public meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers.
“We’re being about as inclusive in getting input as we can be,” said Kirk Duncan, director of public works for the city.
Every 10 years the city does a study to identify capital needs and ideal rate increases to ensure Juneau’s water and waste water management programs operate smoothly over the next decade.
The last rate study, conducted in 2003, requested rate increases of 18, 16, 14 and then 5 percent every two years to keep up with expenses, but the Assembly rejected that proposal and opted instead for 7 percent increases in 2011 and 2012 only, Duncan said.
The infrastructure is beginning to age, so the need for investment may be greater this time, he added.
“The (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates there is about $4 trillion in water and waste water improvements needed around the country,” Duncan said.
Recent updates to facilities in Bellingham and Wenatchee, Wash., cost those cities about $80 million and $40 million, respectively, Duncan said.
“Municipalities are just seeing that things don’t last forever, and a lot of these facilities were all put in at the same time as ours,” he said.
The meetings today, however, are introductory meetings aimed to inform attendees of the process going forward.
“We’ll be explaining the whole concept of this $13.5 million business we call water and waste water management,” Duncan said. “It’s giving people background so they can ask informed questions as we go along.”
The next round of meetings will be in December when consultants and the city have identified the areas that will need increased funding over the next decade, and then in February another round of meetings will be held to present funding options.
Duncan said the plan is for a final recommendation to be ready sometime in April.
“We know many millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements are going to be needed,” he said.