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Corrales council approves costly sewer system

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CORRALES — Corrales councilors have narrowly approved an ordinance and a resolution that set connection guidelines and rates for a controversial village wastewater system despite concerns about ongoing costs.

It was one of the final steps in a years-long effort to bring a sewer system to the most densely populated part of the village.

Mayor Phil Gasteyer and village attorney John Appel acknowledge that the liquids-only wastewater line from Wagner’s Lane south to the village limits at Cabezon will run at a loss for the “foreseeable” future and that it’s unclear how much the operating costs will be or how the village will pay for them.

“We are going to have to advance some money from the general fund to run this municipal service,” Gasteyer said in an interview after a recent council meeting.

He hopes the system will be operational by the fall.

Corrales currently has no sewer system. Residents depend on septic systems and concern about possible groundwater contamination from those systems in the densely populated area along Corrales Road spurred the wastewater project.

But during more than a decade of discussion and three years of construction, many residents have opposed it, saying a centralized waste-handling system would be too costly and isn’t needed.

The ordinance makes connection voluntary, giving residents and businesses along the wastewater line route options to connect by paying all the initial hookup cost upfront or paying 20 percent and repaying the balance to the village over 10 years.

Customers would also pay a monthly service and commodity charge, ranging from $42 for residences up to $295 for large-volume commercial enterprises using more than 4,800 gallons per day.

Customers who connect will still have to have a septic system to handle solid waste.

The resolution sets the connection fee for residential and small commercial customers at $500, and $1,000 for large-volume commercial customers.

There are additional costs to extend a line from the system to the residence or business. Gasteyer said that cost will depend on the distance from the system to the connection location on the property.

Councilor Ennio Garcia-Miera told the Journal he has heard estimates ranging from $12,000 to $20,000, “But again I don’t know. That’s been the whole problem, we still don’t know how much it’s going to cost people,” he said.

Gasteyer said the village has about $200,000 from a state Environment Department loan/grant, which can be used to provide capital to help pay for the line extensions for those who opt to connect.

Early projections estimated 80 to 90 customers, but it could be far fewer and it’s unclear how that will affect ongoing operation and maintenance costs, Gasteyer said.

The system has cost about $3.5 million in federal, Sandoval County and state funds so far and needs up to $200,000 more to become operational, though no startup date has been set.

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