The city of St. Maries says there is no money left in the sewer accounts it kept for the county while the county’s sewer system was under the city’s management.
The county received correspondence dated July 1 from the city on various matters they inquired on back in May.
The matter of the accounts and available cash was briefly discussed at the commissioners meeting Monday, July 11. St. Maries Mayor Tom Carver was in attendance.
Mayor Carver made the following statement about the cash in his letter to the county.
“Finally, I must advise you that there is no remaining cash in the capital account. I have enclosed with this letter a detailed statement prepared from the actual revenues and expenditures incurred by the city for the collection and treatment of wastewater outside the city, for the period of FY 2016-17 to FY 2020-21. The total net expenses which remain unpaid to the city for that time period is $89,447.12. Despite our requests to be compensated for these expenses, we have received no payment to date. It is unfair to the residents of the city, for the county to demand payment from that account when it has, for many years, required the city residents to subsidize the county’s sewer-water collection system, without compensation,” Mayor Carver wrote.
Commissioner Phil Lampert disagreed.
“The city of St. Maries sent us a bill, some correspondence back, saying that they have no money left in the accounts, but there should be an account there for pumping and there should be an account there for some operations and other things. But according to you Tom there is no money left in any of the accounts?” Lampert said.
“No,” Carver said. “What we did was we went back and figured out what the last five years and did not put any money in those accounts and it basically balanced out and still was in the deficit.”
Lampert said last August or September, the county received a letter from the city showing there was money in the accounts.
“That wasn’t covering any of the previous year’s expenses,” Carver said. “That was just five years’ worth. I’d like to go back another five, another five.”
“We’re not doing that and you know that,” Lampert said, adding that less than a year ago there was money in the accounts and now “it all disappeared.”
Carver said the city has all the invoices.
Lampert said the issue was one the county would not take action on and needed to discuss the matter in executive session.
In his July 1 letter, Carver also stated he would like to see the county pay treatment fees for Jan. 1 to May 31.
“Finally, I am forwarding to you the city’s revised statements regarding the treatment fees due and owing to the City for the period of January 1, to May 31, 2022, which are based upon the City’s recently conducted analysis of treatment costs conducted by HMH
Engineering. The total due is $27,792.00 for this six-month period. Please make payment on these invoices as soon as possible.”
The matter was not discussed at the meeting. Carver also stated in his letter the two entities need to finalize an agreement for treatment of the county’s wastewater “as soon as possible.”
In regards to the ongoing issue of commercial fees for solid waste, Lampert said they should table the item until the commissioners’ next meeting. He said they did not receive the letter from the city with their response until Friday and wanted to have time to look it over.
In his letter to the county, however, Carver said he feels the fees are not valid and the county has no basis for charging the 15 percent.
“As I previously advised Phil Lampert, Chairman of the Board, by letter dated March 24, 2022, the city and the county have no contract for such services; the resolution you reference in your letter, dated April 14, 1975, was for burial of waste at the County land fill. To my recollection the county has not used its landfill to bury garbage for quite some time. Since then, the city has been paying the county for waste disposal under the County’s tax levy and fee schedule. In addition, the city currently collects its own garbage by separate agreement with St. Maries Waste Management, LLC, which transports it to the transfer station, at its own cost and expense. This includes commercial and residential accounts. The garbage is not buried, but rather, transferred to a landfill in Missoula, Montana, for which the city is billed by the county. I fail to see why the city should pay the county a fee for burial of garbage (which does not take place) when it is already paying for collection of its own garbage within the city, and paying the county to transfer it to the landfill. This does not make sense,” Carver wrote.
He continued, “Finally, and contrary to your letter, the city has not paid the County a 15 percent commercial fee for the past several years. Based upon your records, this fee has not been paid since 1999. I believe that coincides with discontinuation of the county’s landfill. The city will continue to pay the county for the reasonable costs of transfer of its garbage to the landfill in Missoula. I do not understand why the county wants to assess an additional surcharge on garbage collected in the city, or to any other users, for a service it no longer provides. It is unfair to the residents of St. Maries to subsidize the county’s solid waste collection system, especially since the city already pays for its own collection services,” Carver wrote.