Sewer deal may end up costing Kingman

Is it precedent, or truly a 'unique circumstance'?

KINGMAN - The City Council on Tuesday agreed to split the costs of hooking into the city's sewer system with a Kingman family due to "unique circumstances."

Those circumstances came in the form of a written decision made by the city engineer in 1994 that waived a requirement that Erik and Dianah Ness have sewer service extended to their lot in the 3900 block of Pinal Street, between Gordon Drive and Coronado Avenue.

The estimated costs to extend the sewer line and connect to it is about $15,000, according to City Engineer Greg Henry, who pegged engineering services at $6,000 and the cost to extend the line at $9,000.

Henry noted the city's Municipal Utilities Commission in a 6-0 vote June 27 denied a request for a waiver from the Ness family regarding the requirement to connect to sewer service.

Utility regulations require an extension if the property is within 500 feet of an existing main and the elevations allow for gravity service, said Mayor John Salem.

Staff recommended the City Council affirm the Utility Commission's decision to deny the Ness family a waiver, but also suggested the city consider participating in the financial cost due to the previous waiver granted 19 years ago.

That the City Council would support the Utility Commission's decision was not in question since Council members focused entirely on the issue of sharing costs. There's been a push for a couple of years to add as many new hookups as possible to help lower sewer fees current customers pay.

While the City Council has declined to chip in money in past sewer connection disputes, Council members agreed the Ness issue was unique.

In a 5-1 vote they agreed to share the costs evenly.

Councilwoman Erin Cochran dissented and Councilman Larry Carver was not present.

"I disagree," said Cochran. "A lot of people came up with a hardship from A to Z and we did not offer them something like this. They had to pay a lot more money and we said no."

Earlier in the discussion, Salem noted precedent would be set if the Council agreed to split the costs, but Councilman Richard Anderson said not every homeowner who might have to connect to sewer also has a letter from a former city engineer.

Nobody asked how many waivers might have been granted in the past.

"I have no idea how many are out there," said Henry on Thursday. "That's not something we track, but I suspect they are far and few between. I've never seen one before. I was surprised when I found this one about halfway through my research."

Councilman Mark Wimpee was the most outspoken Council member in support of sharing the expense, saying the waiver was a game-changer and the city should pay to have sewer line extended all the way to the Ness property line rather than halfway.

Dianah Ness, however, was happy to go 50-50.

"I don't have a problem splitting the costs, but we do have to think about unforeseen costs," she said.

The matter will return to the City Council once the Ness family hires a contractor and engineer and is provided with a cost estimate.

The city will use ratepayer funds to pay its portion. The Ness' must take action on the extension within a year for the city's offer to remain valid.