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City gets serious about more sewers

"Photo: Members of the Langley City Council receive a guided tour of the city's sewage treatment plant. The council is considering an ambitious program of sewer expansion in several Langley neighborhoods.Matt Johnson / staff photoAfter a year of committee and council discussions, the city of Langley is ready to put more sewer lines in the ground.And it is going to cost homeowners some serious money.But if the city is able to work the financing numbers right, new sewers will not cost homeowners on Edgecliff Dr., Furman Ave., Decker Ave., or First St. as much as they could.Sixty-nine homeowners will certainly feel a sting in their back pockets if the city expands its sewer system to these four neighborhoods, as mandatory hookups to the system will run, at a minimum, close to $9,000 per lot. Still, the $913,000 in state loan money the city will have to spend to install over 5,200 feet of sewer mains could come at the bargain price of just 5 percent simple interest through a loan from the state's Public Works Trust Fund. And that savings could be passed on to affected property owners. Rick Hill, the city's public works director, said the cost of hooking up to the sewer might best be paid by financing a 15-year loan to property owners at a 1 percent rate. Speaking to the Langley City Council last Wednesday, Hill said his department needs permission to begin a loan application to the state to get the ball rolling on the sewer project.However, the council clearly was not ready to commit to a sewer construction program. The chief direction of the discussion was not about how soon sewers could go in the ground, but rather how to treat property owners in all the neighborhoods equitably. The plan Hill presented to the council had the city financing all the new mains with the state loan money. But there is a possibility that the loan money might fund only part of the project, leaving some homeowners to pay more over time.The council directed Hill to write a two-part loan application, with one part dedicated to the Edgecliff/Furman/Decker area, and the other to the First St. sewer project.Council member Neil Colburn said the city may not necessarily be able to offer such low-interest financing on future sewer projects, which could anger some property owners.We're not going to be able to do this for everybody, Colburn said.The estimated cost to property owners for new sewers will vary with location and lot size. Lot owners on First St. would pay approximately $11,500 per lot for sewer service. Those in the Edgecliff/Furman/Decker area would pay $8,700 to $12,900 for their sewers. If the city gets adequate loan money and installs sewers, a proposed change to the current sewer hookup ordinance could force homeowners to hook into the system more quickly. Hill proposed that the city require homes near sewer lines be hooked up within 90 days of receiving notice to do so from the city. The current ordinance allows two years.Council member Ray Honerlau took issue with the hookup notice time, noting that bad weather and contractor delays could push a property owner's hookup schedule well beyond the thee-month timeline.I don't think 90 days is a very reasonable amount of time, he said.Both councilmembers Colburn and Honerlau will be affected by the sewer line projects when the city is ready to start work. Colburn lives on Edgecliff Dr., while Honerlau lives on First St. Neither council member's house is currently hooked into the city's sewer.The council took no action on the sewer discussion. It will discuss the issue in future sessions."

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