City Council meeting discusses fee increase

Grahm Anderson (right) explains each of the different numbers on the fiscal year 2022 proposed budget.

BLACKFOOT – The Blackfoot City Council met on Tuesday evening to discuss the 2022 fiscal year budget as well as the proposed fee increases. They wrapped up the evening with Blackfoot Water Department Superintendent Princeton Lee explaining the idea behind the Water Conservation Committee.

Starting the meeting was the proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 presented by Treasurer Grahm Anderson. Anderson explained the changes in the values from the previous two years. He highlighted the changes for the members to see but was questioned about the different colors used on the report. It was assumed that he used the template from the previous year but did not update the colors per cell on the Excel spreadsheet. Anderson said he did build it from scratch and wanted to show the changes from the previous years with different colors.

Councilwoman Jan Simpson asked why the golf course was requesting less funds this year in comparison to last year. It was indicated that the golf course does not have a need for an increase and will be able to operate on a smaller budget. The budget was then opened for public hearing for input but no one offered testimony for, neutral, or against the proposed budget. Mayor Marc Carroll closed the hearing and explained that they will be officially voting on the item at the August meeting.

The meeting would then change from the FY 2022 budget to the proposed fee increase that would circle around solid waste (trash removal) for city residents. Currently, city residents’ price for a single garbage can is $15.53. The proposed fee increase is $1.33 a month on solid waste, bringing the total to $16.86. The proposed increase was presented because of the increased tipping fees that the county is being charged by Bannock County for transporting trash to their landfill. Bingham County continues to search for an alternative option with their Public Works Director Dusty Whited who settled on the idea of transporting the county’s solid waste to Jefferson County. Although no agreement has been made, the city residents’ rates were increased because of the increase in cost to take the waste to Bannock County who increased the rates as soon as the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Bingham County had expired.

Councilman Chris Jensen stated, “I do not like doing fee increases like this, but the city has to pass the fee on to the residents.” The other council members shared similar sentiments as they opened the fee increase portion of the meeting to public hearing. No public comment would be made, and the fee increase would pass unanimously.

The final item on the agenda would be an informational item regarding the construction of the Water Conservation Committee. Mayor Carroll introduced the idea, explaining that Lee had sent him the email a few months earlier and that they had discussed the possibility of the creating the committee to which Carroll agreed that would be a good idea.

Carroll would then invite Lee to explain the details of the idea to the council. Lee said it came about following the information of the water study last year as well as the desire to lessen the impact on the aquifer through unnecessary pumping for watering. Lee noted that Blackfoot uses over half of a million gallons each summer just for watering lawns and that the new train of thought about landscaping in desert areas includes xeriscaping and planting native plants to that area. It is documented that Blackfoot residents use 3.5 times the national average of water and 1.5 times the state average. The goal is to bring that number down substantially.

Simpson asked Lee if they planned on getting the ditch companies involved in the discussion. Lee noted that he has been in discussion with them for some time with one of the ditch companies asking about the effluent out of the Wastewater Treatment Plant as an option for irrigation. Carroll said there are Department of Environmental Quality regulations that will not allow that company to use the effluent for irrigation. Effluent is the processed wastewater that has gone through all stages of treatment and is clean enough to release back into the Snake River.

Lee noted that they are still seeking at least four more community members to join the conservation committee and explained that those who are interested in serving on this advisory committee to reach out to Carroll either via telephone, email, or in person. The committee will help find better ways for the city to conserve water. If conservation is not achieved, Blackfoot could be on a one-way trip to curtailment from the state. The council members expressed gratitude to Lee for wanting to create this advisory committee and thanked him for his hard work.

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