TWENTYNINE PALMS — “Progress is expensive.”

That was the word from City Manager Frank Luckino when he spoke about a meeting with property owners and tenants in the downtown area which will be affected by Project Phoenix.

Those impacts will be discussed at the meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at City Hall, 6136 Adobe Road.

Impacts will include temporary closures while infrastructure improvements, including underground electrical lines and lines to a planned wastewater treatment facility, are put into place.

It will also include possible fees for sewage treatment services once those services come online later this year.

A study looking into proposed sewage treatment rates was discussed briefly at the regular city council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Council members considered setting a public hearing, to consider approval of those fees, on April 7, but opted to wait until after affected property owners and tenants could provide feedback at the Feb. 20 meeting.

A rate study conducted by Willdan Financial Services has proposed a rate structure based on the amount of water discharged by a given business with a base rate of $45 per Equivalent Dwelling Unit, defined 100 gallons per day, the estimated daily discharge for a single family home.

According to information provided in the study, Papa John’s Pizza, with a rating of 3.18 EDUs, could be faced with a monthly sewage treatment bill of $142.94.

The study noted that proposed rates would not fully fund operation of downtown wastewater treatment and that general fund money would be needed, at least in the first fiscal year, to make up the balance.

Those costs are estimated at $17,500 when operations begin during the final quarter of the 2019-20 fiscal year and at $70,000 during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Luckino noted that city planners looked west, to Yucca Valley, and rates planned for sewage treatment services there.

The difference, he added, is that Yucca Valley will have many more customers to spread the costs among.

“We don’t have that critical mass,” he said. “Progress has a price and that is what we are going to be dealing with.”

Council members also learned that the process of creating sewage treatment rates could be stopped, forcing city planners to return to square one, if protests representing more than 50 percent of affected property values are declared.

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