Granite Falls leaders decide to keep sewer hookups on pause

Development was set to outpace sewer capacity, and upgrades could cost more than $15 million.

GRANITE FALLS — City leaders have decided to extend a temporary halt on sewer hookups as they make plans to upgrade the system.

The improvements are expected to cost upward of $15 million. Until designs are ready and funding is lined up, permits for new sewer connections likely will remain on hold.

However, hundreds of homes had approval before the moratorium, which started this past spring. Home building is expected to continue around town for the next three years or so.

“The moratorium will have no real impact short-term on the heated pace of development that the city is currently experiencing,” city manager Brent Kirk said in an email. “But it may have impacts on the next wave of growth … if the moratorium is extended multiple times.”

The city currently has 1,350 sewer hookups. More than 530 more homes are either being built now or are scheduled to be built in the next three years.

The City Council in April enacted the six-month measure because development was set to outpace sewer capacity. Last week, council members unanimously approved another six months.

The rule has some exceptions. Building a house or two-unit duplex on an existing lot, or developing a property in the general commercial zone, would be allowed as long as it doesn’t exceed available capacity. Emergency hookups due to failing septic systems also are exempt from the moratorium.

The city recently finished a plan for upgrading the wastewater treatment plant on West Wallace Street.

Within the next two years, updates at the plant could include new pipes and equipment. That would cost about $1.7 million.

Design work for long-term upgrades would fall in the same timeframe, Kirk said.

The larger projects would include moving an operations building at the plant to make room for an expansion, along with adding new ditches and more equipment. That work could total about $15 million. The construction timeline depends on funding.

The city aims to pay for the expansion through fees charged on current development, state and federal grants, and partnerships with builders.

The council does not plan to raise rates to pay for the upgrades, Kirk said. There may be increases to cover routine maintenance and operations.

The city also is planning electrical work and parts replacement at the Burn Road lift station, but that is not related to the moratorium, Kirk said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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