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North Bend property owners bone up on sewer project process

North Bend city officials, an engineering consultant and a property assessment consultant educated property owners about what it's going to take to bring sewer services to parts of the urban growth areas east of the town.

Speaking to an audience of about 25 people, North Bend Public Works Director Ron Garrow gave a presentation on what is in store for property owners who will be impacted by the Utility Local Improvement District (ULID).

Garrow said the sewer district boundaries were determined by zoning of the property in the North Bend Comprehensive plan and natural physical barriers.

He also told the group that about 160 property owners are effected and 265 tax parcels will be assessed as the district. Once formed, the property owners within this district will pay a share of the cities cost for installing the sewer service.

To determine how much each district property owner pays, a special benefits study is being conducted by an assessment firm. During the meeting, senior firm associate, Debra Foreman told the audience the difference between the value of property before and after the sewer line is the estimated special benefit. The benefit amount is what determines how much a property owner will pay for the project.

As an example, Garrow showed how a typical household would start making installments of about $900 a year and as the principal is reduced, the payments reduce, too. By the 20th year, the installment would be around $500.

"You will see the statement bi-annually with your tax statement," Garrow said.

Foreman is optimistic about the benefits to property owners. "North Bend is likely to grow in this area. It looks like there is transitional property, new employment and the city has a need for sewer in order to fully develop," she said.

"The sewer will allow for full development and give neighborhoods enhancement and help homogenize the area. We see a lot of potential for residential, multi-family, commercial and industrial development in this area," Garrow added.

Property owner Al Chicklero wasn't convinced the benefits were a sure thing.

"I am most concerned about property valuation. All of us setting here - a sewer doesn't do a lot for property value if you cannot get water," he said.

City consulting engineer Gary Born told Chicklero that property owners in the city of Sultan had to form a water and sewer district together to accomplish a benefit because no wells in the area could not produce enough water.

Held at the Sallal Grange in North Bend, last Thursday's meeting is the first of several public meetings to be held over the next six months concerning the sewer project.

Garrow said there are several steps to getting this project started and every step involves public input. The city will be putting together a cost estimate and assessment of the project. A special benefits study must be completed and the City Council must form an official ULID.

The cost of the entire project is estimated at $6 million.

"Actually, that estimate was determined in 2001. I'm sure this amount will go up and higher gas prices are not going to help," Garrow said.

"All processes have public input. There will also be a public formation hearing. Even after the council votes for the formation of the ULID, the public has a 30-day period to file a protest," Garrow said.

Garrow estimates the council will take action on this project as early as August.

Garrow also asked and answered what he determined to be the most common questions.

Garrow informed the group that other property owners can be added to the sewer district as long as the property doesn't create an island. "You must sign a petition and a n- protest agreement also," he added.

Garrow answered other question such as: What if a property owner refuses to pay? The city will start charging 12 percent interest and start foreclosure proceedings, and can a property owner get payments deferred? Yes, but only if the owner is a senior with economic disadvantages.

Another question Garrow addressed was: What if a property owner inside the sewer district doesn't want sewer service?

"The property owner doesn't have to hook-up if they have an adequate septic system," Garrow said. "However, the property owner still has to pay their share of the sewer project because their property benefits and they are inside the district," he added.

The next meeting will be held in June and Garrow said it would be a "nuts and bolts" kind of meeting involving discussions about environmentally sensitive areas or historical considerations.

If the project is completed as scheduled, sewer services will be available by the summer of 2008.

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