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Langley may pool money in sewer pot

Despite the fact that the Langley's attempt last summer to extend sewers failed, a sewer extension -- possibly done in increments with small loans -- hasn't been ruled out for the future.

The $2.8 million issue, which was designated as Local Utility Improvement District 9, is dead, but there is money in the bank with which the city can encourage residents with septic systems to hook up.

Last week, the city council considered a resolution that would use part of an $870,502 sewer expansion and improvement fund to assist city homeowners to hook up to sewer service. If the resolution passes, as it could later next month, $200,000 will be made available to Langley residents for 10-year sewer loans.

Called the Sewer Connection Incentive Program, the money would assist low- to moderate-income homeowners with loans and grants hook into city sewer service.

The resolution didn't get far in the Jan. 22 meeting. After a brief discussion and a first reading of the measure, the Langley City Council decided to wait until their Feb. 5 meeting before tackling the issue again. Langley City Council will wait to vote "yes" or "no" until a clearer understanding of the ordinance is reached by all.

Neil Colburn, mayor pro-tem at the meeting in Mayor Lloyd Furman's absence, said he wanted to take the process of adopting the ordinance slowly.

"It's a considerable amount of money," he said Tuesday. "I just want to make sure we have community input."

So far, the issue of sewer extensions has brought plenty of input. Public participation in both council sessions and special sewer information meetings last summer convinced the council and city staff that there was little support in the Edgecliff and First Street neighborhoods for expanding the city's sanitary sewer system to those areas.

Faced with a big pot of money to be labelled by resolution "Sewer Expansion and Improvement Fund," Colburn said he had questions regarding what the city should pay for in the event of a sewer extension, and what property owners should pay for. The fund was created last summer and was inserted into the city's 2002 after the fact on Jan. 22.

Back from vacation this week, Mayor Furman said the money to be placed in that fund comes from ULID 8 assessments, commercial surcharges from ULID 8, and reserve funds and interest from sewer connection fees. ULID 8 expanded the city's sewage treatment plant about 12 years ago.

Because the city has not yet paid off the bonds that funded the sewer plant construction, it must keep funds in reserve, Furman said, explaining why the amount proposed to be made available as loans is relatively small in comparison to the fund from which it will be taken.

Furman also said that there is the possibility that the money in the fund could be used as seed money for a sewer expansion project, but only after the city pays off $206,000 in loan money it still owes the state on the city's sewer plant expansion.

However, he said the city does not currently have a project in mind.

The money is also there in case of an emergency. Furman said he would like to see at least $400,000 in the fund at all times. The money could be used to pay for repairs and maintenance on the sewer system.

"If there was a major problem, we would want to fix it," he said.

Furman said Langley couldn't spare more than $200,000 for a revolving sewer loan fund because that would over extend city finances.

"We can't put ourselves in that position," he said.

Furman said in no way is he or the city council initiating a sewer extension; but they are planning for the day when sewer lines are extended.

There are two situations under which the sewer could be extended. If residents passed a new ULID, or if a developer decided to extend the sewers to benefit a construction projects, residents could be forced to pay their "fair share" of the extension.

Record editor Matt Johnson contributed to this story.

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