Freeland sewer district announces cost of new sewer system

In case anyone had any doubts, installing a sewer system doesn’t come cheap.

Depending on the outcome of a possible $10 million federal grant application — sewer district officials will know for sure by mid-August — a Freeland homeowner can expect to pay between $12,900 and $18,400 to hook up to a new sewer system.

Businesses will be charged based on annual water usage.

That’s on top of the estimated on-site cost of $10,500 that homeowners may face to remove an existing septic tank, depending on property size, tank location and site restoration.

On Monday, Freeland Water and Sewer District commissioners approved a resolution of intent to form a local improvement district (LID) to help fund design and construction of a new sewer system.

A LID would allow sewer improvements to be financed by property owners over 15 to 20 years, and would be a way to repay the anticipated federal loan.

Last week, at a meeting hosted by the sewer district, home and business owners got an idea of how much a new sewer system will cost them.

The total price tag is big: $33.4 million.

But if a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Fund comes through, the local share would be $24.8 million.

“It is in the form of a loan grant; could be more, could be less,” said Sandy Duncan, sewer district administrative assistant. “The numbers we are using are conservative.”

The monthly operations, administrative and capital replacement charge for customers will run $63 per household. Businesses will pay based on 563 cubic feet of water usage per month.

Sewer district representatives said their latest estimates are firm.

“The need for a sewer system won’t go away and the cost won’t go any lower,” said Katy Isaksen, a financial consultant for the sewer district.

She said the anticipated USDA grant would offer residents a single funding source, one set of requirements and an easily understood combination of grant and loan packages.

To assist homeowners, Isaksen is pushing for a local improvement district.

“A LID is a financing mechanism that allows sewer improvements to be financed by property owners over 15 years,” she explained. “The first assessments aren’t due until a year after the project is done, which would be the spring of 2016.”

Sewer District Commissioner Rocky Knickerbocker said Phase One would include 90 percent of the potential customers — all the commercial and most of the residential areas of Freeland — and that $30 million from the USDA should cover construction of both phases.

Gary Hess, engineer for the sewer district, said that construction on the project could begin within two years, once funding is set.

In response to a question from one of the 65 residents present, officials said there will be no more public meetings until after the district has heard from the USDA.

Proponents have worked for years to create a sewer system that would serve Freeland’s commercial core and surrounding residences, the center of economic activity on the South End.

A sewer system is a prerequisite for Freeland incorporation, another goal of some who live in the Freeland area.

The project has been slowed through the years by extensive planning, legal wrangling and a quest for elusive funding.

The water and sewer district currently encompasses about 1,050 acres, and serves 442 commercial and residential customers in the Freeland area.

The district already has moved ahead with property acquisition to accommodate an outfall for the sewer system and for a future sewage treatment plant.

Earlier this year, the district purchased 10 acres off Bush Point Road between Highway 525 and Mutiny Bay Road, for $275,000, using a grant from the state Department of Ecology.

The treatment plant would be installed in a building about the size of a large house. The water reclamation facility would have no outdoor ponds, and would be designed to be odor-free, engineers say.

In December, the district closed on 80 acres in the former Trillium Woods north of Freeland after the developer of the property forfeited to Shoreline Bank.

County planners expect the population of the Freeland area to grow to approximately 4,000 by the year 2020, with the bulk of new residents being retirees from the Seattle area.

Substantial commercial growth also is expected in Freeland as the population of the entire South End grows.

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