The Jackson Hole Classical Academy will have to wait for a decision on whether it can connect its new campus to the town’s sewer system.
On Monday the Jackson Town Council delayed action on the school’s request to connect to the town sewer.
After its lease at a church on High School Road ends this summer the Classical Academy aims to build and open a modular campus on South Park Loop in September.
Town Engineer Brian Lenz recommended against the sewer connection, “pending comprehensive capacity and rate studies for the water and sewer systems.”
The town hasn’t analyzed its wastewater capacities since the early 2000s and last adjusted rates in 2013, a staff report said.
“Given the passage of time, changes in development regulations and densities, and granted and expected additional connection requests outside of the town limits, review and update of capacity and rates are required,” Lenz wrote.
Consultants for the school argued that the interim campus shouldn’t affect capacity because the Academy is merely transferring its town sewer usage from an old facility to a new one. They also said best practices say facilities should connect to municipal water and sewer rather than the alternative: adding a new septic system.
Town Councilor Jim Stanford and Mayor Pete Muldoon, sided with staff, saying capacity must be studied before additional sewer hookups. Stanford noted he also opposed connecting the town sewer to Munger Mountain Elementary School several years ago.
“We need to look at our capacity,” he said, “and we’re under no obligation to do this.”
Muldoon believes the town needs to take a broad look at its sewer capacity and strategy, potentially prioritizing town needs first, then replacement of “problematic septic systems” in the county and, finally, new hookups.
Other councilors weren’t sure. They discussed an approach that would prevent a new septic system by allowing the temporary modular campus to hook up now while requiring a new hookup agreement for when the permanent campus is built. Ideally, the capacity study would be complete before deciding on a hookup for the permanent campus.
Town Manager Larry Pardee challenged the idea that if there’s no sewer tie-in, a septic field is needed. He said there are other options. The town will bring up the matter again June 17.
The Academy has been searching for a permanent home for years. After Teton County commissioners rejected the school’s request to amend rural rules limiting building sizes to allow a gym and auditorium, the Academy successfully pushed Wyoming state legislators to approve a law that exempts private schools from county zoning authority as long as they are “substantially similar” to the guidelines that govern public school facilities.