Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

April 29, 2014

Finances improve at GT County septage plant

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County’s Septage Treatment Plant processed enough septage waste to fill seven Olympic swimming pools in 2013, while the plant’s revenues outpaced expenses by about $300,000.

The positive cash flow followed years of financial woes at the plant dating back to its flawed inception in 2005. County records show the plant actually took in about 400,000 less gallons of septage waste in 2013 than 2012, but a processing price increase and a debt restructuring related to the bonds sold to build the plant offset the volume decrease.

“I was very happy with what happened last year because initially I thought, we’re going to take that rate up and we’re going to see some downturn in the revenue, but that wasn’t the case,” said county Finance Director Dean Bott.

County officials in February 2013 increased the per-gallon septage treatment fee by 50 percent, from 12 cents-per-gallon to 18 cents-per-gallon. They also increased the holding tank waste treatment fee from 4 cents-per-gallon to 5 cents-per-gallon, county records show. The plant processed about 16,000 more gallons of holding tank waste in 2013 than in 2012.

The 2013 price increases followed a 2012 decision to refinance a set of bonds issued in 2003 to finance the plant’s construction.

Both moves -- and the improving economy -- helped alleviate a cash flow problem that plagued the plant in years like 2011, when the facility took in roughly $1.6 million, spent roughly $1 million, but still didn’t have enough money to cover debt services, Bott said.

Expenditures outpaced revenues at the plant by about $200,000 in 2012, but the opposite was true in 2013 when revenues totaled roughly $1.3 million and expenditures about $1 million.

Bott said he hopes that trend will continue.

A sub-committee of county Public Works Board members will meet May 8 to start a review of the septage treatment plant’s business plan.

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