Bel-Air, Herzberg Heights residents ask city to consier waiving hookup fees.

HOLLY M. GILL - The Madras City Council listens to testimony from Vic Delamarter on the city's plans to extend sewer in the Bel-Air and Herzberg Heights neighborhoods in northeast Madras.
With a loan from the Department of Environmental Quality, the city of Madras is extending public sewer into the Bel-Air and Herzberg Heights subdivision in northeast Madras.

The city met with residents of the area Nov. 13, to get their feedback on the project and to give the residents information on how it will affect them. Residents were also advised to attend the Dec. 12 meeting of the Madras City Council, when the council heard their concerns.

The city was awarded the $1.115 million loan last spring to run the sewer lines throughout the area, which will give homeowners with failing septic systems the opportunity to connect to city sewer. The DEQ agreed to provide forgiveness for up to $500,000 of the 30-year loan, which leaves $615,000 at 1.41 percent interest per year.

Since the DEQ only approves and denies permits for legal septic systems, the city must make the final determination of when a property owner must connect. As a result, the city is establishing a legal framework for the decisions it will face.

Once the lines are in place, the cost for property owners to connect to city sewer can range from $9,500 to $16,000, according to Madras Community Development Department Director Jeff Hurd. Financing is available from several sources, including Craft 3, NeighborImpact for low-income homeowners, and local banks.

Jodie Bauman, who lives in the neighborhood, told the City Council that it was expected to cost $9,000 to $14,000 for her home, with the city's hookup fee of $5,000.

"If you knock charges down, it would change our perspective a little bit," she suggested.

Northeast Beverly Lane resident Terry Rogers said that his septic is at the back of his property, which would make it more costly to hook up.

"If the city would reduce or waive the permit to hook up, it would make it more convincing to people," he said.

Asked if the residents are allowed to move their own tanks to save money on the expenses, Hurd responded, "As a property owner, you're allowed to do your own work."

Vic Delamarter said that he had moved to the area permanently in 1972, and his property was eventually annexed. For some residents, Delamarter said, the system development charges, along with the new sewer bill, can eat away at their unbudgeted funds.

Northeast Chestnut Street resident Steve Fisher said that the city already has an expensive water system that is shared by a limited number of people. "It seems weird to ask $5,000 for the privilege of hooking up," he said. "I'm bothered by that."

Fisher said that the city goes out of its way to bring in new businesses "sometimes at the expense of people who live here," and he would like to see the fee waived.

Madras Mayor Royce Embanks said that the city will have a work session on the issue and consider a solution at a January meeting.

When the construction is complete, the city will decide what action it will take when a property has an illegal septic system, such as a drill hole or dry well, a legal septic system that hasn't failed, a legal septic system that has failed, or when a property owner just wants to hook up.

Oregon Administrative Rule 340-071-0160 states that if a sewage system is within 300 feet of a property, and the property owner is willing to connect, the DEQ will not issue a permit for a private septic system. All of the properties will be well within 300 feet after the extension of the sewer lines.

Hurd and City Administrator Gus Burril both suggested that the city allow those who have septic tanks to remain on the septic tanks until the tanks fail.

In order to waive the system development fee, the city would have to amend its existing ordinance. Burril and Hurd recommended that the council consider waiving or adjusting the sewer usage charges for the first 12 months after the property is connected to city sewer, under certain circumstances.

The council meets next on Jan. 9, at 7 p.m.

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