April 23, 2007

Howard Lake defends SAC and WAC fee schedule for new school

HLWW doesn’t agree with Met Council-based fee, which could be as high as $222,250

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Discussion about a recent meeting between Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School representatives and staff from the City of Howard Lake took place during the city’s workshop Tuesday.

The topic of discussion was was the sewer access charge (SAC) and water access charge (WAC) fee schedule for the new high school, discussed at a prior meeting amongst Mayor Richard Lammers, City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp, City Engineer Barry Glienke, school board members, BUILD committee members, and the school’s engineer.

The city has a policy in place for new non-residential buildings that determines the SAC and WAC fees based on the type of establishment, its capacity (of people), and other factors.

“The purpose of the fee is to reserve the capacity at the wastewater and water treatment plants, and the SAC and WAC fees help to pay for future work and additions to the treatment plants,” Hinnenkamp added.

The current high school did not pay SAC and WAC fees because the policy was started in 1991 for new buildings only.

The school is moving its location and will be generating the same amount of sewer and water usage, pointed out Supt. George Ladd.

“It’s the same amount of sewer and water we’re using right now – it will just be coming from a different location,” Ladd told the Herald Journal.

“We’re just trying to negotiate with the city for a different price, based on what other communities with new schools have done. For example, Buffalo’s new middle school’s SAC and WAC was way less,” Ladd said.

“We’re (HLWW) paying for construction of the water and sewer lines. SAC and WAC is for future upgrades and problems with the treatment plant. It’s a fund the city is setting aside for future projects,” Ladd said.

“We’re just trying to build more of a building and add back some of the cuts we made by reducing prices in other areas if possible,” Ladd said.

For schools, one SAC and WAC fee of $6,350 per 14 students is expected. The new high school’s capacity is 500 students. Doing the math, 500 students divided by 14 is 35 units, times $6,350 equals a one-time fee of $222,250.

The school said it will not immediately be at full student capacity, rather, at 300 students, and further that they are transferring these students to the new school from the current one, which should factor into a decreased rate, according to City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp.

If the city were to use the number of students as 300, the fee would be $133,350. The school was not happy with that number, either, and said it wasn’t feasible to pay, according to Hinnenkamp.

“The school wants the residential equivalency based on volume,” because they (the school) say that’s what the new Buffalo Middle School paid, Hinnenkamp said.

Residential equivalency fees are lower and calculated differently. If the school were to pay a SAC and WAC fee based on the residential equivalency schedule, the fee would be $73,025.

“No way – based on future sewer and water plant issues, people are going to say (their higher rates) are because of the school,” Council Member Tom Kutz said.

“The school will have reserved capacity at both the existing school and the new school – it doesn’t matter if students aren’t there,” Hinnenkamp said.

“If we lower the fee, it will affect the people of Howard Lake. If we charge the higher rate, it will affect the district,” Glienke said.

“We’re asking if there could be a compromise. We want to work with the city,” Ladd said.

The workshop members decided to research similar size school districts and compare numbers with them.

The city agreed to also take a closer look at its policy and the history of it.

“If you find the best case scenario in your policy, then you’re doing them justice,” Hinnenkamp said about the city’s policy.

“We’ll continue to work with the school, and hopefully find something the council and the district is comfortable with,” she added.

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