Peralta to consider mill levy for sewer system

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The mayor and council of Peralta will consider implementing an increase in property taxes to help build a new sewer system at their meeting next week.

A new sewer system in Peralta, according to Mayor Bryan Olguin, would help protect groundwater from sewage waste. Complaints from citizens about neighbors with open sewage have been made to town officials.

"We still have good drinking water, but if we keep going the route that we are going, our water is not going to be any good. It's going to be contaminated," Olguin said.

In 2009, the latest Valencia County Regional Master Plan was completed. The water and waste water studies conducted for the plan identified a few municipalities with water contamination issues. The town of Peralta and the village of Bosque Farms were designated as top priorities for water protection.

"The main thing that it says to me is that we have some wastewater issues," said Olguin. "In Peralta, there's approximately 1,500 septic systems and 830 are permitted. The other 750 are inadequate, and several properties have open sewage."

The water table is high in the Rio Grande Basin and clean drinking water is dependent on how well sewage is managed.

It's just a matter of time before the state environment department mandates that the town implement better wastewater management, the mayor said.

"There's going to come a time very soon where they're going to say to every entity, county and municipality, 'you have until this date to get at least your plan going,'" said Olguin.

Fortunately, Bosque Farms is willing to allow Peralta to hook up to its wastewater system, and a memorandum of understanding to address rate structure and fees is in the works.

Peralta has never had a property tax increase, the mayor said, and up to a 7 mill levy can be imposed, according to state statute.

"Basically, what we're looking for is maybe a 2 mill levy, which would average out to about $7 a month to the homeowner," Olguin said. "It's a tax any way you look at it, but I'm looking at it as an investment for our infrastructure.

"In my opinion, it's an investment in the town, so that we can help generate more gross receipts."

To fund the project, town officials are looking for state and federal loans and grants.

"Nowadays, there's really no free money," Olguin said. "There's always: 'What are you going to put up? We'll help you, but you've got to match us somehow.' It's usually 25 to 40 percent."

The mayor and council had high hopes for about $1.2 million in state funding out of Gov. Susana Martinez's earmarked proposal for about $112 million in bond proceeds for water projects across the state. But legislators slashed her request significantly, and both Peralta and Bosque Farms were bumped from her shortlist, the mayor said.

The mayor spoke with the governor last Saturday and she told him she is going to try again next session.

"I feel pretty optimistic that we will get some funding," Olguin said.

With the other shortlist projects ahead of Peralta completed, the mayor also feels confident they will move up the list of priorities.

Funding options being considered include an increase of gross receipts taxes, a loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for clean water infrastructure projects, a low interest loan from the Rural Infrastructure Project with a 2 percent interest rate for 20 years, as well as the 2 mill levy, he said.

Grants include a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant that has been applied for and money from the state finance authority for these types of projects.

Right now, 10 percent of the town's gross receipts taxes are being put in a bank account for the initial costs of the project.

Installing the main trunk and transmission lines on N.M. 47, Phase 1-A is estimated to cost $800,000. To start that work when DOT is rebuilding the highway in the spring or summer 2015 is critical because it can save the town costly environmental study expenses, traffic control and other expenses, the mayor said.

Also, the project will be managed by DOT.

"We're still going to be hiring the contractor, but they'll be working under DOT and everything will be timed out with them," Olguin said.

The second half of the first phase, 1-B, is the installation of an estimated 250 residential connections. The entire estimated cost of Phase 1 is $4.2 million.

Four main sewage collection systems were studied, including a gravity sewer system, a septic tank effluent pump, a vacuum system and a low-pressure sewer system.

Molzen Corbin, the town's engineer firm, recommends the low-pressure grinder pump system because of the low water table, and it is the less costly.

"It's what Bosque Farms is using and it's compatible with their system," Olguin said.

Grinder pumps are installed underground, and only a 2-foot wide dome is above ground on the residential property.

Julie Pluemer, the town administrator, is looking into low-interest loan assistance for senior citizens and low-income families from USDA for the purchase and connection of grinder pumps to the town right-of-way, the mayor said.

Town officials are also working on a sewer ordinance that addresses existing sewer issues and the implementation and connection to the new sewer service.

The mill levy would be put into effect before the year is out.

The council meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 7, at Peralta Town Hall, 90-A Molina Road.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.