HELENA — At the Helena City Commission Administrative meeting on Wednesday afternoon, commissioners choose to eliminate the current water and wastewater service line fees.
The program started back in 2018 as a way to give zero-interest loans to residential customers who may have emergency water or sewer line repairs.
When it launched, it was funded by a $2.50 fee for water service lines, and a $6.47 sewer line fee that was added to city water bills.
A couple of years later, in 2020, they reduced the wastewater fee to $2.50 matching the water line fee and approved plans to sunset the fees program in 2030.
Since its launch, the program has collected around 2.9-million dollars, with just about 9% of that being utilized for those zero-interest loans...
Overall the program had just 31 applicants. 13 for water and 18 for wastewater.
"At this point with our current use, we have enough to take care of like 40 years if we want to continue the program. So we are just saying at this point we don't need to collect any more these and we want to cut it off," said Public Works director Ryan Leland at the city of Helena city commission administrative meeting on Wednesday.
There are currently around 2.6 million dollars in the fund.
On Wednesday, they re-evaluated the program based on the need. They want to leave the program in place but stop collecting the fee.
"Is there a consensus from the commission to eliminate the fees and then continue this discussion of what is the best path forward with the funds as they sit?" asked Commissioner Emily Dean at the city of Helena city commission administrative meeting on Wednesday.
Other commissioners agreed to eliminate those fees for future water billings.
They plan to continue to use the money collected to offer zero-interest loans, but they will decide how the money will be used on a future date.
They also plan an education campaign pointing ratepayers to private insurance to help cover emergency sewer and water line replacement costs.