Douglas County commissioners again are asking the city of Lawrence to delay raising septic waste dumping fees while the county comes up with its own disposal plan.
Commissioners said Monday they want more time to decide if expansion of the Eudora wastewater treatment plant is the best solution for septage haulers who face a quadrupling of fees at the Lawrence wastewater treatment facility.
The new fees took effect Saturday at the plant, increasing from about $15 per septic waste load to more than $60 a load. It would increase to more than $200 per load by 2002. The rate changes are being driven by the $42 million expansion and improvement of the city's wastewater treatment plant.
Commissioners will discuss the issue Aug. 23 and hope Lawrence officials will delay the fee increase until Sept. 1. By that date, commissioners expect to make a decision.
A letter seeking the delay is on its way to the city. Roger Coffey, Lawrence Utilities director, said Monday the delay would be up to the Lawrence City Commission.
The problem is county commissioners disagree on how to pay for improvements that the Eudora plant will need to handle the waste.
Commissioner Charles Jones, who has been working on the septic waste issue, has proposed charging a $7 annual fee for everyone who has septic tank.
Chairman Tom Taul disagrees.
Taul said he thought only people who have their septic tanks pumped should be charged a user fee, which would help pay for the Eudora capital improvement costs. He said some people take care of their septic tanks, don't need them pumped out as often and shouldn't have to pay to pay an annual fee.
"Philosophically, I don't agree with paying a fee for someone else's negligence," he said.
Taul also wondered if the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department could charge a fee when new septic tanks are installed. That fee could help pay for the capital improvements in Eudora, he said.
Commissioner Dean Nieder asked for additional time to study the issue.
"If a $5 or $7 a year fee would make this Eudora system work, then I've got to think about it," he said.
Nieder said he doesn't want to set the dumping fee for waste haulers too high for fear they won't use the Eudora plant.
Under Jones' proposed plan, waste haulers would pay about $60 per load, based on Eudora receiving about 720 loads a year. Although no fee schedule has been set for the Eudora plan, Jones said he thought $120 a load was the maximum price the county would charge.
"It will always be cheaper to go with Eudora than with Lawrence," he said.
In August, commissioners also will consider banning land application of septic waste in the county. County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the county counsel is drawing up a draft resolution for the ban.