BLACKFOOT – The Blackfoot City Council will gather on Tuesday, July 20, for a special meeting to cover their fiscal year 2022 budget as well as hold a public hearing regarding proposed fee increases on municipal services such as water, trash, and sewage.
These two items will be discussed and voted on before Mayor Marc Carroll introduces the Conservation Committee to the members of the council.
Starting with the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, each of the departments had to submit a budget for the council members to review as well as for Grahm Anderson, City of Blackfoot treasurer. Along with the budget that was supplied, it showed the differences from the past two fiscal years as well as the proposed numbers for 2022.
One of the major differences that shows includes the amount of funds for the Wastewater Treatment Plant because of the influx of money needed to complete phase two of the renovation project. The difference in their budget from 2021 to 2022 is a reduction by more than half, loosening funds in the budget.
Also in the budget will be the Street and Sanitation Department budgets as well as the Water Department. Street and Sanitation requested more funds for road repair and construction in the 2022 budget proposal. This would be the largest change in the budget for their respective department and the Water Department has an increase expected. The Water Department is the only department that works on funds generated from services. Their respective department generates funds throughout the year while trying to operate on a budget that would be less than what they expect to generate so they have funds in reserve for when big projects are necessary.
Lee explained that he is always more comfortable with the budget when there is enough in reserve so that if any major issue springs up, they have the funds at the ready without asking the community for more.
He went on to explain that based on their water study held by Keller Associates in 2020, the funds will be needed in the future for expansion of Blackfoot for more wells and storage facilities for water. Future proofing the city will be a large undertaking that Keller Associates estimated to be upward of $50 million if it were all done at once and would include the need to replace older mainlines that would not be able to sustain the increased amount of water demand in certain parts of the city.
The funds for the water system upgrades suggested by Keller Associates are not in the scope at this point in time but will require nearly seven miles of main lines to be replaced in the older part of the city. These are the main lines that would not be able to maintain the needed flow for the expected increase in population and development in the area.
After the council decides to accept or reject the fiscal year 2022 budget, they will move on to the proposed fee increase public hearing. The proposed fee increase hearing should be surrounding the expected increase in cost for solid waste (trash) removal with Bingham County changing partners in solid waste storage.
Currently, they are seeking a permanent solution to where Bingham County will be able to send solid waste after the expiration of their agreement with Bannock County. Bannock County did not want to extend the agreement and felt that Bingham County should be paying the same price or more as their residents. Previously, Bingham County had an agreement with Bannock for accepting their trash into their dump for a fraction of the amount that individuals would be charged for their refuse.
However, with that agreement expired with no possibility of extending or renegotiating it, county Public Works Director Dusty Whited met with Jefferson County about accepting the waste after shopping around for the lowest price. Jefferson County will be the lowest price option for Bingham County to send its waste but there are concerns about being able to get the waste to the site during the winter or during road closures for high winds on I-15.
All of these concerns were addressed by the county commissioners, but ultimately, they will be holding a similar hearing to make their decision as well. Their decision will directly impact what the city of Blackfoot must do because it relies on the county’s facility for waste disposal. The public hearing will provide the residents the option to give their input on the idea, whether that is in favor or against.
The final part of the meeting will be Mayor Carroll explaining the desire to create a Water Conservation Committee. Superintendent Lee suggested the idea and felt it would be a good idea for Blackfoot to participate in because currently, Blackfoot water users are using water at 3.5 times the national rate and 1.5 times the average rate in the state.
The hope is to ensure the future of the Snake River Aquifer that Blackfoot pumps water out of and relies on to provide drinking water to its users. The Conservation Committee would make recommendations to the city regarding ways to conserve water and those ideas would be passed on to the city council as well as to Lee for his department. The hope is to reduce the impact Blackfoot residents may be having on the aquifer because there is no accurate way to measure the amount of water that is available in the aquifer at any time.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the council chambers. The meeting will also be streamed on Zoom, but those wishing to provide testimony will need to attend in person.