This article has been edited for voter clarification.
MOYIE SPRINGS — The city of Moyie Springs is seeking voter approval for a $3.5 million sewer bond in Tuesday’s election. The bond will support improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment facility such as screening, sequencing batch reactor, chlorination, and biosolids handling.
If passed, bond (a type of loan) repayment would be allocated among residents who have a city sewer hookup, officials said in a press release. Principal forgiveness and/or grants could offset some of the $3.5 million in the future as well.
According to the release, the project is required by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency to bring the existing treatment facility to modern standards and meet permitting requirements. If the bond does not pass and the project is not completed by January 2021, IDEQ could issue a fine of $1,000 per day to the city until the system is upgraded. While bond repayment would be limited to residents on the sewer system, repayment of any fines would be allocated to all property owners in the city.
(The Log Inn is one of the northside businesses that will be affected by the change.) Though the citizens at the top of the North hill will eventually be affected, the only citizens that are voting are those of Moyie Springs. The county may extend the project towards the Three Mile area in the future.
“We are very much in favor of the sewer coming to our area,” said Eric Pipitone, owner of The Log Inn. “Not only do we believe that the sewer will have a positive impact for our businesses, but we also feel it will be a major plus for the community.”
When the team went to develop the RV sites and cabins, they quickly discovered the extensive land demands that the area requires for septic systems.
“We were required to build four septic fields to support our five cabins and 10 RV sites,” said Pipitone. “This took up approximately .25 of our 1.9 acres. With our surrounding acreage being smaller than this property, it is neither cost effective nor environmentally feasible to build large septic fields on one acre lots.”
Pipitone went on to talk about how the sewer upgrades will increase the property values on the North Side.
“This increase in land value and the subsequent development of future properties will bring significant tax dollars to the county,” said Pipitone. “These monies will be used to support county roads, local schools, local law enforcement and our local hospital. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars going to our county without any residential property owners being impacted is a major win for everyone in the community.”
He also noted the shortage of affordable housing in Boundary County and how new apartments can’t be built without the proper sewage system.
“It’s important to have these housing options available to our seniors and young families,” said Pipitone. “Though the sewer will be helpful to our personal business interest, our main motivating factor is the additional tax dollars coming into the community. We have two young children and we want them to grow up in a county that is well funded with the resources it needs to support schools, first responders, infrastructure and the community hospital.”
While Pipitone and others are in favor of the sewer bond, others aren’t so sure because of the lack of knowledge about the vote.
“The current proposal, by the state and others, is for the citizens of Moyie Springs to approve a $3 million dollar bond,” said concerned citizen, Rosanne Smith in her Letter to the Editor that was published in the Bonners Ferry Herald earlier this year. “A bond is a loan. It has to be paid back. It is not a grant for ‘free’ money. All residents have the right to vote on the bond/loan/debt. Only those ON the system pay the bond/loan/debt.”
Smith went on to discuss how the current system could be fixed and upgraded instead of replacing it with a large and expensive new system, furthering her argument on why the changes should not be approved.
The vote determines whether or not the city will get government assistance or if the taxpayers in Boundary County pay for the necessary changes another way and subsequent fees in the meantime. By voting yes, taxpayers approve the bond that will help pay for the project, voting no means the local residents choose to pay for it in a different manner. Voting no does not mean that the changes will not be made.
All registered voters within the city can vote in the May 21 election. Anyone who is not registered to vote may do so the day of the election in Moyie Springs City Hall, 3331 E. Roosevelt Ave. To register, bring a photo ID and a recent utility bill.