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Grinder pump fees may rise

McMinnville officials may mess with fees for sewer grinder pump installation.

The city’s Water and Sewer Committee met to consider recommended changes to the city’s agreement with residential property owners who request installation of a grinder pump system. The wastewater conveyance device forces sewage to the central sewer system and is required when the geography of the site prevents sewage from flowing fast enough by gravity alone. 

Water and Wastewater Department director Ricky Morton said the city is losing money every time it installs one and he’d like to put an end to that. 

“We are currently charging $2,150 for the unit, but our cost is $2,400,” said Morton. “That’s what it costs the Water Department for that unit. The cost changes every year. I recommend we change the wording in the agreement to state our charge would be whatever that cost is. That way, we can recoup our money.”

He also suggested increases to the tap fee from $750 to $850 and how much the city charges to dig the ditch required for installation. 

“We are currently charging $750 for tap fees on the forced mains, but we need to be charging $850,” said Morton. “We run those up to 100 feet on the customer’s property. Anything past 100 feet, we charge $3 per foot. That charge was set in 2008.”

He recommended that charge be doubled. 

“I called a local contractor and he charges $6 a foot,” said Morton. “It costs us a little over $4 a foot just for us to do it. That doesn’t include the cost if we get out there and we get into rock or whatever we find underground. I recommend we increase that to $6 per foot over 100 feet.”

At this time, the city charges $8 a month for a grinder pump warranty. If something goes wrong, the city will correct the problem at no charge. Morton didn’t make a suggestion for change, but recommended the city consider one. 

“Here’s something that needs to be looked at. If you buy one, the service charge is $8 a month. The city takes care of it. We maintain it. If that pump goes out, we replace it. A pump in the system is roughly $1,500. We charge $8 a month. It would take us roughly 15.6 years at $8 a month just to replace the cost of a pump. We are selling the water and the sewer to the customer, so there is profit there.”

Alderman Mike Neal objected to a blanket doubling of the installation charge. 

“I hate to double it, especially if we are the ones doing the work,” said Neal. “If we were paying to have the work done, I can see it.”

Neal recommended the city charge for its expenses, to which Alderman Everett Brock added, “The problem is, we don’t know what the cost is.”

“I think we can get close,” said Neal. “I would like us to figure out what cost is, as best we can, and go by cost.”

The measure was tabled to allow time to generate the city’s expenses for the fee changes requested. 

Board of Mayor and Aldermen approval is required.