By: Terry Dillman
Newport News Times
That approval, given during the council’s Feb. 14 regular session, sets in motion the second step of the 16-step process required to form an LID. It authorizes qualified city staff to assess the proposal and generate a written report on all aspects of the project and defining it more clearly, including design and costs.
Most owners of 48 lots near Regatta Park want to form and underwrite the cost of the LID to install a pressurized sewer system for lots along NE Lake Dr., NE Voyage Ave., and NE 15th St., connecting it to the city’s pump station at Regatta Park, and to pave those roadways.
Brian and Leslie Green of NE Lake Dr. initiated the effort in August 2010, sending out a letter to neighbors to determine the amount of support for installing a new, two-inch sewer line and paving the roads. In it, they outlined the proposal and its costs.
“Until recently, the topography of our neighborhood has made connecting to sewer prohibitively expensive,” Green noted.
Technology that has proven effective over time in other parts of the state and nation – a pressurized grinder pump system that mechanically removes and transports solid and liquid wastes from what is otherwise a traditional septic tank – could provide sewer service at a fraction of the cost.
Green told them the estimated total cost for installing the sewer line and the paving would reach $205,731 ($4,300 per house or lot) – $18,556 for engineering; $71,400 for sewer line installation; $7,000 to connect to the city’s Regatta Grounds Park pump station; $93,600 to pave 2,925 feet of the 16-foot wide roadways; and $15,175 for the city’s administrative fee.
Property owners could pay their shares in a lump sum or in monthly installments of about $43 over a 10-year period.
“If you have an undeveloped lot, you would know that you could build and it will cost less to install and hook up to this sewer system than to install a septic system meeting today’s standards,” Green wrote. “You would also have greater flexibility in determining the size, type, and location of the home you want to construct because you would not have to reserve space for a septic drainfield and repair area.”
Additional costs of $11,976 per property ($4,900 for the grinder pump, $2,000 for installation, and $5,076 for the city’s system development charge) would come into play only if and when the property owner decided to hook up an existing or future home to the sewer system.
To make the paving project less costly, Green said city officials agreed to require only a 16-foot width, not the usual 40 feet, and not require the curbs, sidewalks, or storm drains usually needed when roads are paved as part of a new development.
Getting action from city council required a petition signed by the majority of property owners within the proposed LID.
In an October 2010 letter to neighbors, Green indicated that 70 percent favored the improvements, 10 percent were against them, and 20 percent were either undecided or didn’t respond. Based on that, he circulated the petition to take to city council, requesting their authorization to move to the second step of the process.
City Engineer Stephanie Reid outlined those requirements for council members. She said either the council or citizens could initiate step one – clearly expressing an interest in forming an LID, followed by the assessment and report.
“The information presented to the neighborhood by the Greens, including the costs, is based on very preliminary assumptions and subject to verification in step two,” Reid said, noting that the request gives city leaders an opportunity to look at the LID process and what LIDs can do.
Completing and filing the city’s report is the third step, followed by council either adopting a motion to approve the report as filed, approve the report as modified by the council, require additional information, or abandon the proposed improvement. If approved, the matter would go to a public hearing, where the LID could be approved, modified, or abandoned. If approved, council would next formally adopt a resolution establishing the LID.
Steps 8 through 16 are “basically construction and assessment proceedings,” Reid said, noting that the procedures are rooted in municipal code and state statutes.
“The process is very specific,” said City Attorney Joan Kelsey.
Lila Bradley, the city’s public works director, said LIDs are “very difficult and complicated,” and would require “a tremendous amount of staff time, even if it goes smoothly.” She estimated it would take about three to four months to complete the survey and report, and a year or longer to finish the entire process “if all went well.”
If the city uses a consultant – which Reid said it typically does in such circumstances – the survey and report would cost the city $18,000 to $20,000. Bradley said the city has a fund in place to cover such costs.
Reid also said the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality had given a verbal OK to the project. “This does not mean approval,” she added. “This type of project isn’t typical.”
Green, who also serves on the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID)’s board of directors, spoke at the Feb. 14 council session, telling the councilors that the best way to reduce nutrient loads in the lake is to “get rid of septic tanks,” especially in a watershed “where everything flows downhill” – in this case, toward Devils Lake.
Paul Robertson, the DLWID manager, said there are 685 septic tanks located within the watershed that feeds into the lake. The proposed LID and related sewer system, he noted, would remove 1 in 14 of those septic systems from service, and “could possibly be used in other parts of the watershed,” and is less expensive than other types of sewer systems.
“This is a real opportunity for nutrient abatement in the watershed – nutrients that lead to cyanobacteria blooms and nuisance aquatic vegetation,” he noted. “Overall, this project simply makes sense.”
Council members agreed, with Rick Brissette noting that he would like to see such a grassroots, citizen-driven effort succeed.
Terry Dillman is the assistant editor of the News-Times. Contact him at 541-265-8571, ext 225, or [email protected]