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The Miami Wastewater Collection Improvements Project utilized sewer cameras to inspect sewer pipes. KE&G's sub-contractor, InsituForm Technologies, shown recently in downtown Miami, inspects the pipes via camera before lining them to increase longevity. Photos by Carol Broeder.

Miami boosts sewer rates to comply with funding requirements for system improvements

By Carol Broeder and David Abbott

Miami residents will soon have to pay a little bit more for each flush, as an increase in sewer rates will take effect Wednesday, Aug. 21. The increase is a condition of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (USDA-RUS) funding for the sewer project.

Miami Town Council unanimously approved the 2.3% increase at its July 22 regular meeting with a 5-0 vote. Council members Don Reiman and Mike Black both had excused absences that evening. 

The increase on the current residential base charge will be about 52 cents, from $26.01 to $26.53. (See other increases listed below.)

Mayor Darryl Dalley reminded those at the meeting that stipulations in the grant agreement for the sewer project require the Town of Miami to increase its sewer rates.  

Former Councilwoman Rosemary Castaneda, who served on council during the funding application process, reported in May that the rate increase was necessary to qualify for the USDA-RUS grant so the agency would have confidence the town could pay it back.

Miami Town Manager Joe Heatherly gives an update on the 14-month Miami Wastewater Collection Improvements Project at the July 22 council meeting.

The 14-month Miami Wastewater Collection Improvements Project—funded by the USDA monies—is finally nearing completion. Town Manager Joe Heatherly said that while it would reach “substantial completion” by the end of July, the slurry sealing of streets would not be done until mid-September, after the upcoming monsoon season.

Project funding was from a combination of grants and a loan. Referred to as an  “80/20 split,” 80% was from a USDA-RUS grant of nearly $20 million and 20% from incurred debt.

The five-phase project was to replace or repair entire sections of sewer and transition some residents from septic to a sewer system. Each of the phases included money to repair streets damaged in the process.

With council approval last year, the town accepted a Water Infrastructure Financing Authority of Arizona (WIFA) loan for its sewer project for a loan amount not to exceed $3.9 million, contingent upon fulfilling USDA requirements.

At the time, council committed to maintaining a sewer rate schedule that would provide adequate income for maintenance and operations, debt service and reserves as required by WIFA and USDA-RUS.

The council then directed Heatherly to update the study of the town’s sewer rates. The town hired Economists.com to conduct the study and prepare a written report prior to a February 2018 public hearing that was part of the rate increase process.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Jose “Angel” Medina said that the council had not raised sewer rates in the past—as far back as the 1960s—so as not to upset residents.

“In the real world, you’ve got to pay what you owe,” he said.

At a council meeting in mid-May, Miami Utility Coordinator Tashiana Jerrols explained that the 2.3% rate increase is part of the USDA-RUS grant agreement. The proposed fees and changes were based on a study completed by Economists.com, she said.

During the July 22 meeting, Miami Gardens resident Ed Balch spoke, both during call to the public as well as the public hearing, voicing strong objections to the way the town’s sewer ordinance was written.

“You are stealing $25 from me every month,” he said. 

Brandishing a copy of the proposed ordinance to raise sewer rates, Miami Gardens resident Ed Balch voices strong objections to the way it was written.

Addressing the town’s minimum charge, Balch said, “You cannot say something is a minimum charge and then charge it as an administrative fee. It is in violation of the law.”

Balch pointed out that the way the ordinance is written, if he uses more than 2,500 gallons the town cannot charge him that fee plus the minimum charge.

He also said that the proposed ordinance talks about “rates within town limits.”

“You better not raise my rates because I am outside the Town of Miami limits,” for which he already pays an extra $10, he said,

“The gentleman is correct,” said Miami Town Attorney Sue Goodwin. 

Part Two of the ordinance should read “Rates for Sewage Collection,” and the next line should say the “monthly fee for sewer service is set forth below,” she said.

Goodwin explained that while the wording of the town’s May 15 Notice of Intent to raise the sewer rates is correct because it refers to the sewer system, the ordinance is incorrect because it states “within the town limits.”

She confirmed with Heatherly, who said that the intention is for the rate to be consistent throughout the town’s sewer system.

Medina moved to approve the ordinance, including an amendment proposed by Goodwin to correct the ordinance as originally written.


As of Wednesday, Aug. 21, the sewer rates will be as follows:


Current base charge, $26.01; New, $26.53

Usage charge per 2,500 gallons, $18.25; New, $18.75

Commercial N

Current base charge, $13.51; New, $13.78

Usage charge per 2,500 gallons, $9.13; New, $9.31

Commercial Z

Current base charge, $26.01; New, $26.53

Usage charge per 2,500 gallons, $17.56; New, $17.91

Commercial C

Current base charge, $26.01; New, $26.53

Usage charge per 2,500 gallons, $21.83; New, $22.26

Commercial R

Current base charge, $26.01; New, $26.53

Usage charge per 2,500 gallons, $17.56; New $17.91

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