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Slow growth prompts project delay

After more than a year of planning, sewer officials say tough economic times have forced the delay of a nearly $90 million plant expansion in the Snyderville Basin. If built the expansion could be the most expensive locally funded public works project ever in Summit County.

Growth has slowed and extra capacity for treating more wastewater is not needed as soon as was previously expected, said Mike Luers, general manager of the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District.

Millions has been spent nearly completing engineering to expand two regional sewage plants which will be delayed at least a year, Luers explained.

"We like to be way ahead of the game as far as planning, and we are continuing with having the engineering done so when it does come time when we need to do the work that we’ll be in a position to go ahead and proceed," added Parkite Jan Wilking, who chairs the district’s board of trustees. "We need to make sure that we’re there to provide the service when it’s needed but it looks like that need is going to get delayed."

The annual rate of growth in Park City and the Snyderville Basin, Luers said, has slowed from four to one percent in the past decade.

"Next spring we’ll take another look at it and if growth is continuing to be at the one percent level then we’ll go ahead and delay it another year," Luers said. "We’ve got a really flat period right now."

The project would dramatically increase the district’s ability to treat more sewage. Existing plants on East Canyon Creek and Silver Creek treat a combined six million gallons of wastewater per day.

But the number of connections needed each year for new residential customers has fallen from 750 to about 200, Luers said, adding that a three-bedroom home uses one connection.

"This past spring we started to realize that the growth was slowing down and some of the financial markets were in a condition that was not conducive to us borrowing money," he said.

Revenue bonds needed to finance the project are not as readily available on Wall Street, Luers lamented.

"Unfortunately the revenue bond market is just not real good right now because some of the firms that have historically insured revenue bonds for districts like ours have basically gone bankrupt. They got tied up in the subprime situation," Luers said about failed financial giants that backed bad mortgages.

Impact fees developers pay to build new neighborhoods would service any debt the district would incur expanding the plants, he explained.

"We feel that the people who are using the service should pay for the service," Luers said.

Wilking said he agrees.

"The way we have always designed it is that whatever is demanding the service is going to be paying for it," Wilking said. "If it is new growth demanding the service then it’s new growth that has to pay for it."

The massive remodel could take three years to construct, Luers said.

"Projects of this nature take a long time to plan and build," Luers said. "We’re going to have to see where the development will be taking place the next couple years and we might be able to reduce the cost by making some adjustments."


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