Price tag going up for sewer addition

The North Bend City Council will hold a meeting for members of the Utility Local Improvement District No. 6 to discuss new costs for extending sewer service from city limits to Truck Town after the city learned that the project’s bill will exceed $20 million, an increase of about $6 million over previous estimates.

The special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24 at Mount Si Senior Center, located at 411 Main Ave. S.

If the ULID project moves forward, as City Administrator Duncan Wilson expects will happen, assessments paid by owners of the 397 properties in the district will have to go up, though it’s not yet clear by how much.

As engineers with Gray and Osborne, North Bend’s consultant on the project, began the design phase, they realized that previous sewer system plans, prepared by the firm Berryman & Hennigar in 2001, had miscalculated the amount of piping required for the extension, Wilson said.

The city has used that sewer comprehensive plan estimate as a template since 2001, periodically updating it for rising construction costs, Wilson said.

But recently, Gray and Osborne engineers “discovered that assumptions made in our 2001 comp plan were insufficient to carry the amount of sewer anticipated,” Wilson said.

Gray and Osborne weighed options for providing service to the area, and determined that a gravity-fed rather than the planned vacuum-powered sewer system would be more economical. The city then called together an independent “value engineering team” to ensure that Gray and Osborne’s recommendations were valid, Garrow said.

Because “all this pre-design work has caused delay,” the extension won’t be up and running until 2011 rather than the previous expected completion date of 2010, said Ron Garrow, the city’s public works director.

Wilson stressed the importance of the ULID.

“A significant portion of the future of the city is dependent on being able to expand sewer,” Wilson said. A number of single family residential developments can’t move forward and the Snoqualmie Valley School District can’t build a second school on the Twin Falls Middle School site until the sewer system is extended to the area, he said.

Before petitions to join the ULID circulated, an appraiser calculated the “special benefit” that property owners would reap by gaining sewer service. The total special benefit was $24 million, well over the initial $14 million project cost estimate, Garrow said.

The city is entitled to build out up to amount of the special benefit, Wilson said.

Wilson said Gray and Osborne was looking at ways to lower the ULID project cost, and the city would go after grants to supplement the assessments.

The federal Economic Development Administration offers grants that improve the economic viability of areas, and the city might also be able to get a special appropriation from the state, Garrow said.

Wilson and Garrow agreed that even with a higher price tag, the ULID was still a good value for property owners.

“It’s still a good deal, still important to the city, and still important to property owners,” Wilson said.

Wilson expected Gray and Osborne to provide more firm details about the project price by the Nov. 24 meeting.

In 2005, property owners in the city’s urban growth area petitioned for North Bend sewer service. The city first approved the ULID for 258 properties, and this summer, 139 more properties joined the special taxing district, Garrow said.

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