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Council softens policy for SAC/WAC fees

A request from Birchmont Drive residents has spurred the Bemidji City Council to reconsider its policy for sewer and water connection fees.

The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to offer residents a longer grace period to connect to the city's sewer and water systems without facing SAC/WAC fees.

Under the new policy, residents would have two construction seasons from the time they are eligible to connect to the sewer and water systems without facing a SAC/WAC fee.

Residents who already have access to sewer and water systems still have until Jan. 1, 2010, to connect without having to pay a SAC/WAC fee ($1,830 fee for sewer and $845 fee for water). Those who do not now have access will have two construction seasons from when access is made available to connect without facing the fees.

The policy, which is more lenient for residents, does not apply to commercial developments.

Several property owners along Birchmont Drive had objected to the SAC/WAC fees and appealed to the city for a longer deferral time. While the council was not receptive to the idea during the March 17 City Council meeting, it changed its position during Monday's work session.

Monday's vote extended the grace period for Birchmont Drive residents to Jan. 1, 2011.

City Attorney Al Felix recommended that the council consider a longer deferral rate to make the project more appealing for affected property owners along Birchmont Drive. He reasoned that the utility project was pushed back from its original date and suggested that the council consider more flexibility on SAC/WAC fees.

City Engineer Craig Gray said the SAC/WAC policy was intended to offer property owners two construction seasons during which they could connect without facing the fees. Since the Birchmont Drive project would not be complete until late 2008, property owners would only have one construction season before the original deferment date would expire, he explained.