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Homeowners sound off on sewers

Wood River homeowners whose properties are proposed to be included in the Utility Local Improvement District (ULID) No. 6 spoke about the pros and cons of joining the city’s sewer system at a public hearing held during the North Bend City Council’s regular May 20 meeting.

The council is considering whether to include 139 new properties in North Bend’s Urban Growth Area into the already-existing ULID, which is scheduled to extend sewer service to Tanner and Truck Town by 2010.

The owners of about 100 of the expansion properties petitioned the city to join the ULID in March. The city held its first public hearing on the matter on May 20; another is scheduled for Tuesday, June 3 at the City Council meeting.

Speaking before a packed hearing, several homeowners encouraged the council to approve the expansion of the ULID, citing the cost-effectiveness of their joining now.

Homeowner benefits to connecting to sewer include increased property values, and not having to replace septic systems.

Including the new properties in the ULID would raise the project cost by about $2 million above the original $11.7 million price tag. A percentage of the total project cost will be assessed to each ULID property owner over 20 years as part of their property tax. The assessment for an average-size lot will be about $2,000, and must be paid whether the homeowner chooses to hook up to the line or not. Homeowners in the ULID will not be required to hook up to the system immediately, said City Administrator Duncan Wilson.

The city will impose a general facilities charge and a connection fee to each property owner who hooks up to the line; these fees add up to about $12,000, Wilson said.

The additional cost to each homeowner to hire contractors to hook up to the sewer line and decommission their septic systems would be about $6,000, said Ron Garrow, director of Public Works for the city. That figure excludes the cost of restoring landscaping that would be affected by digging.

Though a majority of homeowners in the proposed expansion area petitioned to join the ULID, Wood River homeowner Randy Harmon questioned the economics of switching from septic to sewer.

“Septic systems are built for the lifetime of the homes. I don’t see why I need to disconnect a septic system that’s only been in place for 10 years to connect to a sewer system,” Harmon said.

“The cost of replacing a drain field within our neighborhood was actually a lesser amount than connecting to sewer. (Septic owners) also don’t have to pay $48 a month, plus 50 cents per cubic meter of water, ongoing,” he added.

Connection for a single family home in North Bend costs $48.48 monthly, which includes 10 cubic meters of water. Every cubic meter beyond that costs 50 cents, said Julie Posey, who works with city utilities.

Harmon also took exception to a provision in the Wood River petition stating that residents would not protest if North Bend moved to annex the neighborhood.

“This is an issue for me because annexation may not come for five or 10 years. How do you waive annexation five to 10 years down the road? We don’t know what the tax structure is; we don’t know what the debt is of North Bend,” he said.

Wilson said North Bend requested that the petition include the annexation provision because of the city’s investment in extending the ULID, and a majority of Wood River residents agreed to it.

“People understood that that was part of the interest of the city,” Wilson said. “It’s a choice people can make, and they voluntarily signed petitions with that provision in them.”

“We’ve been very upfront about the costs associated” with the ULID, and “from an investment standpoint, it makes sense to” the homeowners who petitioned, Wilson said. He added that aside from Harmon’s comments, all homeowner feedback he had heard was in favor of the ULID expansion.

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