By BRIAN WALKER
SPIRIT LAKE — Spirit Lake is taking steps toward floating a bond, possibly in May, to increase sewer capacity and lift a building moratorium that’s been in place since last summer.
"We’re waiting to hear back from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality because it has the final say on the plans," said Renee Eastman, who became Spirit Lake’s mayor last month.
"We’ll take it to the voters after we have a chance to educate them. We need to let them know what’s needed — good, bad or indifferent."
If the vote can’t be held in May, the next chance would be in November.
The preliminary cost estimate for the lagoon is $1.8 million.
Eastman said that after the new lagoon is built, growth limits will likely be implemented. The moratorium will be in effect until the lagoon is built.
"We just don’t have enough land or storage capacity to build as many lots as we have been," she said. "Even though we’ll have the pond, we can’t open the floodgates like we did before and build like crazy. Until we have a long-term plan, we have to be careful on what we do so we don’t get in this mess again."
Eastman said it’s not fair for residents to keep having to fund sewer system improvements, so the city’s impact fees on new growth are being explored.
"We need to make sure developers are paying their way so it doesn’t fall on the backs of citizens," she said.
She said certain parts of the new lagoon, including the liner, must be applied during the summer.
The city last year purchased 6.5 acres for additional capacity for $325,000.
A bond would have to be floated to voters before a loan can be approved. State law requires cities to pass a bond with voter approval for incurring long-term debt.
It hasn’t been determined if the debt can be incurred without raising rates or taxes. What makes no increase a possibility is that the city is currently making a payment on a sewer loan that is almost paid off.
Spirit Lake's sewer rates are $26 per month — lower than many cities — and haven't been raised since 2006.
The four wastewater storage ponds north of the city are at their 50 million gallon capacity. The treated effluent is land-applied on sites adjacent to the storage area.
The sewage has to be stored for seven months out of the year because environmental regulations prevent land application in the winter.