Wednesday, May 26


City looks for new solutions to
old problems    
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[MAY 26, 2004]  A petition by a Campus View Drive resident spurred the city to look into what other cities are doing for their outlying residential sewer needs. A recurring issue prompted Kevin Bateman to come back to the council to seek a resolution to his longtime septic problem. Every time it rains substantially, the water runoff floods his back yard and forces his septic to back up into the lower level of his home. Because the flooding that causes his problem is due to a city-owned street, Bateman felt the city should do something -- either work on flood control or run a city sewer line out to the subdivision. Both solutions were too costly for the city to handle in times past.

Bateman recently returned to the council offering a much less costly solution. He requested the city to cover costs of moving his septic system laterals to higher ground.

The city again reviewed the problem.

During the weeks of research it became more apparent that the city could not practically cover costs incurred on private property without all residents being able to request the same. City residences and businesses are responsible for installation and maintenance costs of the laterals on their property. When a property is built in city limits, the builder or developer pays for the laterals that connect to the city line.

Then residents pay a regular (separate) sewer bill to help maintain the city sewer system. The Campus View Drive residents do not pay a city sewer bill.

"You're opening yourself up," wastewater treatment plant manager Grant Eaton said. Replacing the laterals for Bateman would be equivalent to replacing laterals to the sewer for any city residence. "You're saying you'll take care of every homeowner in town." A common dig for lateral replacement runs $6,000 to $8,000. There are 6,000 hookups in Lincoln.

A few weeks ago Bateman said he thought that maybe he would speak with his neighbors and see about possibly de-annexing from the city. He thought they could pool the tax money they pay the city for other services and maybe do something about this problem themselves and pay for their own private services, such as snow removal.

Last night (Tuesday) he left word that he was withdrawing his petition. He had to get back home to continue cleaning his carpets from this past week's flooding. His request did lead the city to learn about the latest choice in sewer-septic management that is now serving some outlying populations.

Last Thursday a group of city council members took a field trip to Petersburg to see the latest in septic systems for subdivisions. The cluster septic system design that they viewed served a larger population of about 360 homes, though the design can serve as few as eight to 10 homes well.

In this system, homes have their own septic tank that collects solids. The tanks must be emptied as specified by the city every three to five years. The wastewater is permitted to travel through pipes to a collection point, a well; then it is pumped to the main lift station, which the city would own. From there it is pumped to the city wastewater plant. Only the wastewater is moved through 2- to 4-inch septic lines to common lines to the lift station.


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For a large project like the Petersburg system that serves 360 homes, the equipment runs about $5,000 without installation. It runs $8,000 to $10,000 to put a system in. It could run higher with fewer homes, such as the 10 on Campus View Drive, sharing the system costs.

Sewer committee chairman Benny Huskins said that if Bateman changed his mind, he felt the council is more prepared and this might be possible to do.

"I think this is something good to keep in mind because in the future it could save us a lot of money rather than putting in a regular sewer system," Buzz Busby said.

It cuts down on the amount and costs of moving sewage, Eaton said, because you have only the wastewater to handle. The solids are left behind in the septic tank.

Eaton had begun looking at applying the new system to the Campus View Road. This would involve running a 2-inch collection pipe 3,000 feet along the road, where gas and water lines are present. He estimates that the whole project would cost about $260,000 “The minute you start getting into utilities, the cost goes up,” Eaton said.  A new subdivision wouldn't have the utility and road replacements to complicate and raise costs.

Another issue in the same field was raised during the evening discussion. Alderman Huskins said that the city is getting stuck quite often covering costs when a contractor has not adequately finished replacing the road where a new sewer has been tapped. The city has to go in and finish the area in many cases. Part of the reason this happens is that the fill has to sit 30 days before it can be finished. It is difficult to get the contractors to come back after that period of time. Usually you can't even find them anymore, Alderman Huskins said.

He suggested that bond money might be required that would be refunded after an inspection.

Usually the fee is a flat fee of $1,500, Alderman Busby said. He said he has never lived in a city that charges only $50 for a tap fee. Lincoln's begins at $50 and goes up to $60, $70, $80, and $100 to $200 in accordance with the building cost permit. Lincoln's ordinance sets the fee for an over-$100,000 building as two-tenths of 1 percent of the cost of building.

Either way, by flat fee or percentage and bonded, the 1979 revision will soon be updated and the city will not get stuck with that extra cost anymore.

[Jan Youngquist]

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