County revisits fees for septic systems

Flat fee is recalculated to be less than earlier plan

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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County residents can voice their opinions next week on a proposal to replace the county’s current septic system fee structure with a flat annual fee.

Clark County commissioners, serving in their role as the board of health, will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the plan to eliminate county tipping and inspection reporting fees and impose a $16.50 flat yearly fee onto property taxes of all landowners with septic systems.

The public hearing is at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the sixth floor of the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

The county currently charges a $20 electronic reporting fee for inspections and a tipping fee of 6 cents per gallon of liquid pumped. Depending on the type of septic system, inspections are required every one, two or three years. Septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.

The proposal, like the current fee structure, would not cover the cost of the actual inspection or tipping. Septic system owners would still be responsible for those costs.

If this feels like déjà vu, it’s because this will be the second public hearing the commissioners have held on septic fees.

During the first hearing in August, commissioners were entertaining two proposals: One would have imposed higher reporting and tipping fees, the other would have implemented a flat fee of $21.

The commissioners held a work session last month to further discuss the proposals. At that meeting, Marni Storey, deputy director of Clark County Public Health, said the flat fee amount in the proposal was reduced to $16.50 after health staff consulted the county treasurer’s office to refine the projected costs and revenues.

The revenue funds a county customer service program for septic system owners. The program offers advice and guidance to residents who need to repair their systems or have questions about the inspection process.

The program costs $527,530 to operate. The current fees generate only $311,900 in revenue, according to the health department.

The proposed flat fee would bring the program cost up to $552,142, due to an increase in billing costs, and would generate $543,364.

The county currently asks for voluntary compliance with the inspection schedule, but many do not comply. The proposal would spread the cost of the program to everyone, not just those complying with inspection and tipping requirements, according to health officials.

If approved, the change would take first appear on the spring 2012 tax statement.