Answers to common questions are brief and based upon our understanding of the best information available at this time. Specifics may turn out slightly different and all are subject to Indiana Code and law, funding agency requirements and engineering realities.
Revised March, 2016
How is the project being funded?
The project is estimated to cost a total of $24,500,000 and is being completely funded by a 40 year loan from USDA – Department of Rural Development. Grants were investigated but none were available for construction of this project. Connection fees are not being utilized to pay construction costs.
How is the loan to be repaid?
The loan as well as ongoing operating and maintenance expenses of the utility will be paid for by the collection of monthly fees from all of the users of the system.
How are the fees determined and what can I expect my monthly bill to be?
User rates are based on debt service costs (which will be affected by the actual construction costs and by the interest rate applicable to USDA loans at the time of closing) plus the estimated cost to operate and maintain the system and will be impacted by the number of users ultimately connected to the system. The monthly fee after the system is available has been estimated to be approximately $67.00 based on the preliminary rate study conducted by the Board’s rate consultant, Umbaugh and Assoc. CPA’s, in 2010. There are many factors that could impact the preliminary monthly rate. Examples of items that could impact the project costs are general inflation, changes to Indiana law for property exemption eligibility criteria, changes to Indiana law regarding campgrounds, and, the greatest contributor, the fact the several property owners have refused to sign easements, etc. Businesses and multi-family users will be assessed higher fees based on higher expected use as compared to an average home. The Board is working diligently to keep this cost as low as possible. The vast majority of the Board of Directors of the Lakeland Regional Sewer District (the “Board”) are users and they are sensitive to any increase in rates.
What if I don’t pay my monthly bill?
The Lakeland Regional Sewer District (District”) is required by Indiana Code to collect user fees in order pay its obligations and to keep the system operating properly for all of its users. Although we do not yet have a written procedure to cover the non-payment of fees, we will have the power to force payment of delinquent accounts by any of the following actions: assess penalties, utilize collection agencies, take legal action in circuit court, and attach a lien to the title. In addition, the Board may add our attorney fees if legal action is required.
Is it mandatory that I connect to the system even if I have a functioning septic system?
Yes. If your property is within the District and not applicable for one of the limited exemptions and if your building foundation is within 300 feet of the public sewer (or if you are on a body of water and your property line is within 300 feet of a public sewer), connection to the public sewer system is mandatory as required by USDA funding guidelines and required by State Code. However, State law allows an exemption for septic systems that are less than ten years old, provided that the county Board of Health determines that the systems are working properly. The law also provides for two 5-year extensions of this exemption provided that the system is determined to still be functioning properly. At the expiration of the exemption period, you are required to connect to the system. There is also an exemption for parcels that are larger than 10 acres with a function septic system in compliance with State law and local health department requirements.
Who are approved installers?
The District does not have a list of contractors at this time. DLZ, our engineering firm, is in the process of completing the standards and specifications that homeowners will be expected to meet when connecting the plumbing and electrical to the grinder pump along with the proper closing of their septic tank. The District expects to adopt those standards and specification in the May/June time frame. Once adopted, the standards and specifications will be made available to the homeowners/contractors, most likely via a download from our website.
In addition, the District plans to conduct at least one training workshop where contractors and homeowners will be able to communicate directly with DLZ regarding any questions they might have regarding the standards and specifications.
The District will notify all homeowners when the standards and specifications are available on the website as well as the date/time of the training workshop.
When will I be required to connect to the sewer system?
Upon completion of construction of the sewer main and the Waste Water Treatment Plant, you will be notified by mail that the sewer line is available and connection is required. You will be given full instructions on how to proceed and a specified time to make the connection and provide electrical service to the grinder pump. Guidelines for building sewer construction along with all permit forms and applications will be available from the District. Abandonment of the existing septic tank and connection to the new sewer main will be required within a specified time frame after notification. If not connected within the time frame, additional costs and penalties may be assessed.
What kind of collection system is being built? How does it work?
The collection system is known as a “low pressure” sewer system. Wastewater from your home will flow to a collection tank underground (the grinder pump basin.) From there, a pump will grind and push the liquefied waste into a pressure sewer main and on to the Waste Water Treatment Plant.
How often must I have the grinder pump tank pumped?
Homeowners will not have to maintain or access the grinder pump station. The District will own, operate and maintain the grinder pump stations. The grinder station requires no other pumping. Wastewater accumulates and is evacuated to the sewer system by the internal pump. Maintenance cost for the grinder pump will be paid by the District as part of the operational costs; operational electric costs will be paid by the homeowner. The property owner is responsible for adhering to the basic regulations as to what can and cannot be put into the sewer system.
Where will the grinder pumps be located?
Grinder pumps will be located where they can collect from multiple homes if possible and close proximity to power is required. In most cases, the best place will be on an easement granted by homeowners. Where this is not possible, the pump will be installed in the public right-of-way.
I have a stand-by generator. Will I be able to connect my grinder pump to my generator?
Several potential customers have requested this. The Board is investigating the feasibility of this option with its engineers.
Will there be any noise from the grinder pumps?
Noise will be very slight, about like a sump pump if you were standing right over it. Typically, the pump will only operate a few times a day.
Will my neighbor and I have to pay for a new grinder pump if the one we are connected to fails or wears out?
No, the District owns the pump and will provide all maintenance, repair and replacement, when necessary. On the other hand, you will be required to adhere to normal usage guidelines. If you have breakdowns due to repeated improper use, you could be charged for repairs.
Will other people’s waste back up into our grinder pump station?
No, the grinder pump stations are protected by check valves that prevent backflow.
Will I be able to mow around the grinder pump station? Will there be exposed wires or piping?
Yes, you will be able to mow around it. The pump station will have an above-ground cover about the size of a garbage can lid. There will also be a control box with an alarm light which will be mounted on a panel to warn if a failure occurs. There will be no other exposed features.
How deep will the grinder pump station be?
A standard grinder station will be seven or eight feet below ground level . There are also extenders to make the inlet even deeper to help homeowners that need extra depth to provide the necessary gravity slope in their specific case.
How can I find out where my sewer line will have to run for the tie in?
The District will have a master drawing for the collection system. Contact the District office for information. For your convenience and for any question the LRSD office @ the North Webster Community Center @ 301 N. Main St. (SR-13) is open and a notary is available.
Office Hours (We recommend you call first to confirm availability. After hours appointments are also available):
MONDAY 1:00 – 5:00
TUESDAY 9:00 – 5:00
WEDNESDAY 9:00 – 5:00
THURSDAY 9:00 – 5:00
Will contractors who hook up homes need to be bonded and/or licensed?
Homeowners are responsible for the actual hook-up and may elect to use a contractor to complete the actual work. That contractor will be required to be licensed and bonded.
Is a permit required from the District prior to hooking up to the new system? Are there fees associated with the permit?
Yes. A permit will be required. The amount of the fee, if any, has yet to be determined by the Board.
Will there be an inspector for the District when connections are made? Will there be a fee for the inspection?
The District will employ an inspector to assure that all connections are done properly. In addition the inspector will check that all sanitary drains in the building are tied into one building drain going to the grinder pump basin and no storm water or ground water drains are connected to the grinder pump. The Board expects that there will be a fee for this inspection.
Will there be guidelines for Building sewer construction available to homeowners?
Guidelines will be provided at the time of permit application.
Will I be without both septic and sewer service for any period of time during construction?
Once you are ready for connection, the switch from septic to sewer should be a very short time, probably less than an hour.
Will I have to be present to hook up to the system?
Yes, the inspector will need access to the building to assure that all plumbing is connected to the building outlet.
Is there a connection fee?
There will be no connection fee assessed during the initial construction phase. Homeowners will be given a timeframe (yet to be determined) to complete their connection. However, connections made after the initial construction phase will be assessed a fee.
What happens if I refuse to connect?
The District has the power, by Indiana Code, to assess penalties for failure to connect. In addition, the District can also apply to the Circuit or Superior Court for an order to force connection with the cost of the action, including the attorney’s fees of the District assessed against the property owner. At the expiration of the connection period, all residents of the District will begin paying the full monthly fee, whether they are connected or not.
Will I be required to start paying a partial monthly bill before I connect to the District Sewer?
During construction, we are required to draw money from the loan. So, in order to make initial payments on the loan, we will need to start collecting a portion of the fees to cover our loan payment. The partial fee during this period is expected to be approximately ½ of the normal bill. (the debt service portion of the normal bill). When the system is complete and ready for connection, the operational portion of the bill will be added.
What other costs besides the monthly rate should I expect?
You will be required to pump and abandon your current septic tank pursuant to Indiana Code requirements. This is estimated to cost about $400. You will also be responsible for the cost of the plumbing connection from your building to the public sewer. This is estimated to cost $10-$20 per foot of trench and pipe. You may also need to do plumbing modifications to get all waste lines routed to one outlet. There is no typical situation here, so we cannot estimate the cost. If your home is at a much lower level than the public sewer and grinder station, you may need an ejector pump to get up to it, which is estimated to cost $1000-$1500. Finally, there will be a permit fee and an inspection fee, the amounts of which have not yet been determined by the Board. You will also be required to furnish 220 v. electrical service to the grinder pump.
These cost estimates are, of course site dependent. As they say, “your mileage may vary”.
What if I cannot afford the connection costs?
The USDA may be able to provide financial help with grants and low interest loans to cover the initial connection costs. Homeowners 62 years of age and older may be eligible for home improvement grants. Other low income families and individuals under 62years of age may be eligible for loans at a 1% interest rate. Persons interested in exploring these options should inquire about the 504 Program by calling the USD office in Columbia City at (260) 244-6266.
Will landlords get the bill, or can they just make the renters responsible like they do with NIPSCO bills?
The property owner (the landlord) is responsible for the bill, just as they are with taxes. They may charge their tenants as they see fit.
Where will I pay my bill?
The Board has begun to evaluate its options in this area, but no final decision has yet been reached.
If the grinder pump I am supposed to connect to is across the street, will I have to pay for that extra distance?
No, you will be provided with a connection stub at your property line.
What if I own an empty lot?
An empty lot that has no connection to the sewer will not be billed. However, if the lot becomes developed some day, the owner will be required to pay for connection and will be billed for usage from that time on.
If my property value goes up, won’t my property taxes go up?
We know that sewage collection and treatment will be an improvement to your property and to your property’s value. We do not know how it will affect your taxes.
Is there any consideration if I just had a new septic system installed?
See #5 above.
We have a seasonal lake cottage. Must we pay year round?
Yes. The public sewer must be built and sized to handle 100% of the wastewater from the properties connected to the system as if they were occupied 365 days a year. The capital cost, as well as the operation, maintenance and replacement cost is shared equally among all property owners connected to the sewer.
I have a small house with no laundry or dishwasher. Must I pay the same rates as a large home with washer, dishwasher, and multiple bathrooms?
All single-family residential connections will pay the same monthly rate.
My toilet drains into my septic system, but all our greywater (from sinks and showers) goes into a drywell, that some people call a French drain. Since there’s no human waste involved, can I just leave that part of the house alone?
No, greywater is sanitary waste and must be connected to the sewer system and treated properly to prevent harm to the environment.
If we lose electricity, will the sewer system shut down and my house drain back up?
No. First, the Waste Water Treatment Plant and pumping stations will have automatic back-up power generators to maintain operation. Second, you will not have power to run the well pump so no waste will be entering the system. Backflow preventers (check valves) will also be installed at appropriate places to address backflow concerns. If you have a back-up generator to power your well pump, you will have to be aware of the holding capacity of the grinder pump because it will not operate until line power is restored. See also #10 above.
Who will maintain the sewer system?
The Board is responsible for maintaining the proper operation as well as the financial health of the system.
What will be done for odor control at the Wastewater Treatment Plant?
The facility will employ the latest clean-water technology which relies primarily on a completely biological process which is sped up by the forced addition of oxygen. Odor control devices will be located at the facility to dissipate, control and minimize odor. Disinfection is provided by Ultra-Violet light. The outflow water will be clean and clear. Operations will be performed under the guidelines and authority of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and monitored by them.
There are wetlands around the lake. Will the sewer construction damage them?
No. Thorough environmental and archeological studies have been performed and construction will have no adverse impact on them.
What is the timeline for the project expected to be?
The LRSD Board anticipates submitting all the necessary information, including the final engineering design, to USDA during the second quarter of 2014. Once we submit the final engineering plans to USDA, we anticipate that the USDA approval of the plans, the general bidding process, public hearings on the sewer rates, and closing on the USDA loan will take 5-6 months. Actual construction would begin once those steps are completed.