The Marana Town Council last week gave the go ahead to vote next month on proposed wastewater development impact fees.

The new fees are designed to help pay for an estimated $65 million in capital improvements to a sewer system that runs through town.

The system, however, remains under county control. Last October, Marana sued Pima County for the right to acquire a small sewer treatment plant at North Luckett and West Marana roads and the lines that run to it underneath the town.

A Maricopa judge this summer ruled that Marana does have the right to acquire the underground lines. Ownership of the existing treatment plant, however, remains undetermined.

If Marana were to prevail in its lawsuit, it would enact the new fees as early as Feb. 1, 2009.

The new fees — which range from $4,312 for residential customers to $34,496 for large commercial customers — would replace the sewer plant and lines, according to a study by Economists.com, the firm Marana hired to make recommendations for the new fees.

The move comes as Pima County proposed spending $1 billion over the next several years to tear down its old plant at Roger Road and build a new one in its place as well as to expand and refurbish its Ina Road treatment plant.

Marana’s likely approval of new wastewater impact fees represents a key step in the town’s process of setting up its own wastewater utility.

By 2018, the town estimates it will have 15,185 wastewater accounts, a number driven by the anticipated development in the town’s northern reaches.

“Impact fees have become one of the more popular tools to pay for growth,” said Dan Jackson, CEO and managing director of Dallas-based Economists.com.

Once it sets the wastewater impact fees, the town could increase them annually.

The council will vote on the matter at its Nov. 18 meeting.

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