CBJ rate study meetings begin Wednesday

A corroded water main running beneath 2nd Street in Douglas cost the City and Borough of Juneau $375,000 to replace in 2012. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

How much will Juneau water and sewer rates have to increase to cover the costs of replacing old pipes?

That’s the question at the heart of a CBJ rate study, which is also the topic of a series of public meetings getting underway Thursday.

Public Works Director Kirk Duncan says the city has a lot of old infrastructure that’s wearing out and will need to be replaced.

“Lot of things (were) put in the ground in the 80s and they’re coming due.  Some pipes have a hundred years, some pipes have 25 years,” Duncan says.

“The Juneau-Douglas Treatment Plant is in need of a pretty major overhaul as is the Mendenhall Treatment Plant.  And then we still have the water filtration issue that we’re talking about at Salmon Creek.  So there’s just a need for lots of money.”

The CBJ Public Works Department and project consultant will lay out the problem and rate study process at three meetings Wednesday, beginning with the Chamber of Commerce.

The top 50 water and wastewater users have been invited to hear study details from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by a public meeting at 7 p.m., both in Assembly chambers at city hall.

“And the idea here is just why are we doing this and what are we doing? That’s the first set of meetings.  The second set of meetings in December is ‘OK, this is what we estimate we’ll need in the next ten years.’ And then in February, ‘this is how we can structure the rates’ and use passenger fee money, 1percent sales tax, special revenue bonds, and all kinds of different things. So the February meeting is what it’s really going to do the rates.” 

The city reviews its water and sewer rates every ten years, the last one in 2003.  Not surprisingly, that study resulted in a rate increase.  Most residential customers now pay a flat rate for water and sewer of $90.53 per month.