Dear Lakeland Regional Sewer District Property Owner,
The Lakeland Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees is pleased to report that the project is moving closer to the stage of construction. In the next few weeks, the District will be submitting the final engineering plans to the United States Department of Agriculture- Rural Development which will be funding the project.
The current estimated timeline for the project is as follows:
- Final engineering plans will be completed in April and submitted to USDA for approval. Approximately 70 property owners have not signed their easements; however the engineering plans will bypass these properties during the initial construction phase. Once sewer becomes available, the District will pursue forced connection of these properties as allowed by Indiana Code 13-26-5-2.
- Anticipated USDA approval to put the project out for bid-first of June 2014
- Construction bids to be received and opened by mid-July 2014
- Monthly rate determination, public hearings, and loan closing completed by mid-October 2014
- Construction- October 2014 through June 2016
Since November 2013, the project timing has shifted approximately 3 months, primarily due to (1) obtaining USDA approval for the grinder pump selected for the project and (2) purchasing a parcel of property required for one of the three pumping stations. The purchase of this parcel was completed on April 2, 2014.
The Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) completed in 2010 estimated the number of users would be approximately 2,100. Over the past 3+ years, several factors have changed that will impact the final number of users. These factors include:
- Indiana Code was revised allowing home owners to apply for an exemption if their septic system was less than 10 years old or if their property was 10 acres or larger. Approximately 50 exemptions have been granted by the district thus reducing the number of users originally estimated.
- Indiana Code was revised regarding the methods a District may use to charge campgrounds. Within the Lakeland Regional Sewer District, the Indiana State Board of Health regulates 8 properties that are classified as campgrounds.
- Approximately 70 property owners have either refused to sign an easement or have failed to respond to the District’s multiple attempts to have them sign their easement. To keep the project moving forward, the District has decided to have the final engineering plans changed to reflect that these 70 properties will be by-passed. As a result these 70 properties cannot be counted towards the total number of users when the rate determination is completed later this year. However the District will pursue a forced connection as allowed by Indiana Code 13-26-5-2 for these 70 property owners once sewer is available. All costs for this forced connection (legal, grinder pump, installation of the grinder pump, etc.) will be the sole responsibility of these 70 property owners.
Until the actual construction bids are received and the final number of users is defined, it is not possible to provide an estimate of the final monthly sewer cost. We expect to have that information available in the July-August 2014 timeframe. By law, the District is required to conduct a public hearing once the final rate is determined.
The LRSD Board of Trustees and our engineering firm have been focused on trying to complete this project in the most cost effective manner. For example, in January 2014, the LRSD Board decided to have the property owner supply the electrical service to the grinder pump and to pay the monthly electrical usage for the grinder pump. This decision was a significant change from the original plan. The original plan developed in 2010 assumed the District would supply the electrical service to the grinder pump and pay the monthly electrical usage cost. Under the original plan, the District would have included these costs in the monthly sewer bill. This plan added approximately $2 million to the construction cost of the project for running electrical service to each grinder pump. In addition, due to minimum charges from the utility companies, the District would have paid a premium of $65,000 per year for electrical usage. These two items added approximately $8 to the monthly sewer bill.
The Board understands that a portion of the $2 million saved in construction costs will now become the responsibility of the property owner. The District requested cost estimates from a local electrical contractor, and based on these estimates, believes that the cost to run electrical service to the grinder pump for most homeowners will be approximately $450. Under extreme circumstances if the property owner has to go under obstacles such as landscaping, driveways, patios, decks, etc., the cost could be as much as $2,000. If the homeowner needs to upgrade their incoming electrical service from the utility company, this could add $400 to $800 in costs. The District estimates the property owner will see a $1 per month increase in their electrical bill to power the grinder pump.
Attached is a preliminary drawing of the electrical system needed for powering the grinder pump. In the coming months, a separate letter with specifications, detailed instructions, and the timing to run electrical service to the grinder pump will be mailed to all property owners.
The District has no plans to assess a connection fee, commonly referred to as a “tap in fee”. However each property owner will be responsible for providing electrical service to the grinder pump, running a sewer line from the residence to the grinder pump, and to properly abandon their septic system.
As previously communicated to all property owners, USDA- Rural Development may be able to provide financial help with grants and low interest loans to cover these initial connection costs. Homeowners 62 years of age and older may be eligible for home improvement grants. Other low income families and individuals under 62 years 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 USDA office in Columbia City, Indiana at (260) 244-6266.
Feel free to contact us by e-mail at email@example.com or call us at (574) 529-2383 should you have any questions. You can also review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on our website www.lakelandrsd.com
James R. Haney
Lakeland Regional Sewer District