Belfair Sewer Finances Discussed

[VIDEO] The Mason County Commission was briefed Monday on the updated financial plan for the Belfair Sewer System. Gordon Wilson from the FCS Group provided the update on the wastewater system that has been in financial imbalance since it started operation in 2012.

During the briefing with the County Commissioners, Wilson explained that the annual debt on the $42.3 Million sewer plant is $984,000 and operating and maintenance on the plant costs about $640,000 each year. This is well above the $479,000 generated by those who pay the $96 per ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit) monthly charge for the wastewater system. Currently the Belfair Sewer System has 416 ERUs.

Wilson told the Commissioners, they need to expand the system or raise rates substantially to reach balance between revenue and costs including debt service. The examples in Wilson’s memo to the Commission shows “the extremes for those two variables.” Those extremes are either expanding to 1,410 ERUs or increasing monthly rates to $325. Wilson also says to just cover O&M costs with no debt service, there would need to be either 556 ERUs or monthly rates of $128.

Wilson went on to discuss potential areas to expand the system which included Old Belfair Highway, Newkirk Road, Beard’s Cove, Lynch Cove, the area along the SR3 Freight Mobility Corridor (Belfair Bypass), and extending the sewer to the Puget Sound Industrial Center (PSIC) in Kitsap County.

According to Wilson, the “most promising direction” for the sewer to extend is toward PSIC along the Freight Mobility Corridor. However, to expand the system, the County would have to take on more debt. The amount of that debt would be determined by how far the sewer transition line goes (to PSIC boundary, Lake Flora Road or the County Line) and the level of participation from the City of Bremerton since PSIC is in Bremerton’s Urban Growth Area. The Port of Bremerton, which is also in the area, has already said they are not interested in connecting to Belfair Sewer.

A recommendation from the FCS Group’s alysis is a “maximum tolerable rate” for current ratepayers of $106.55 per ERU. The current rate of $96 was originally put in place as a five-year rate cap. That five years ended in 2017.

Wilson is also proposing the County reduce the CFC (Capital Facilities Charge) to connect to the system from $16,300 per ERU to $11,300 per ERU.

FCS also looked at the definition of an ERU and determined the 155 gallons per day is still a valid number.

No decisions have been made on the Belfair Sewer System financial plan, monthly rates, CFCs, ERUs or future expansion of the system as there is still some analysis to be made.