What will $26,000 buy you?
A Mazda Miata? Down payment on a home?
For the Star Valley Town Council, it could provide $50 million worth of sewer advice.
Councilor and Water and Sewer chair Vern Leis, urged the council Tuesday night to approve a preliminary, sanitary sewer master plan by local engineering firm Tetra Tech.
The seven-part study would cover all the would, could and should relating to everything sewage, Leis said.
“For $26,000, I think you will get $50 million worth of answers,” he said.
The study will include an in-depth analysis of current sewage flows and the town’s build-out potential, the size and type of sewage system needed, four possible sites for a wastewater treatment facility and the cost for each facility.
Tetra Tech will also analyze the feasibility of sending waste to the Tonto Apache Tribe wastewater facility, expanding the town’s existing treatment facility or annexing with the county to provide treatment.
“We have nothing at this point, so we need all new data,” Leis said. “I hope we learn everything we would want to know about sewage treatment and where to place it.”
But for $26,000, the council questioned whether the study was too large and included ideas that have already been studied and deemed not feasible.
“I don’t want to spend pie in the sky money on options that don’t exist,” Councilor Gary Coon said.
Coon pointed out that a study of the Houston Creek Landing wastewater collection and treatment facility completed several years ago revealed renovating the failing system was a bad idea. Moreover, sending waste to the tribe’s new plant through several mountainous miles is too costly, he pointed out.
Leis countered that the tribe’s system was potentially large enough to handle the town’s volume of waste, and building piping could be cheaper than creating a new facility in Star Valley. The idea that the town could create its own collection and treatment facility is implausible because of cost, Coon said.
“We can’t afford to do this on our own, the town is not big enough to support the cost,” he said of an independent treatment facility. “I see annexation as the only option.”
But Leis supported the study, stressing all options need to be looked at in a factual manner.
“We need to know what the cost factors are before we invest in a million-dollar facility,” he said.
Councilor Barbara Hartwell agreed with Leis, and said she does not want the town to second-guess itself when it ultimately decides on a treatment option.
Currently, most residents rely on individual, aging septic systems.
These septic systems work well in land with deep soils and deep groundwater supplies. However, in Star Valley, with predominantly shallow granite aquifers, leaking septic systems could contaminate the shallow groundwater.
Additionally, commercial businesses could never enter the town because most need a reliable sewage system. Creation of a wastewater treatment facility would encourage high-density residential and commercial development, something the town is still struggling to decide if it wants.
In a six to one vote, the council approved the $26,000 study, with an unknown completion date. Councilor Stephanie Whetten opposed the motion.