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Homeowners to shoulder costs of sewer work

LAGRANGE TWP. — When a new sewer system is installed in the Pheasant Run housing development over the next year, homeowners there will be responsible for helping to pay off the cost of the project, with most shouldering an assessment of $14,679.48.

That bill won’t come due immediately, Lorain County Administrator Jim Cordes said, but will instead be put on property tax bills for the next 20 to 30 years. Exactly how long hasn’t been decided yet.

If the length of time to pay back the loan is 20 years, it will mean homeowners are paying $733.97 per year. If the term is 30 years, the cost would drop to $489.32 annually.

Cordes said the cost might seem high, but it would have been far worse if the county hadn’t stepped in and agreed to run a nearly 4.5-mile-long sewage line from the 533-home subdivision to the wastewater treatment plant in LaGrange, which also will need to be upgraded and paid for with additional charges to homeowners. Cordes estimated that would amount to a 25 percent surcharge on sewers bills.

The small sewage plant that has serviced Pheasant Run for decades is failing and if the county hadn’t gotten involved the homeowners would be responsible for building a new plant, fixing leaky sewer lines and paying U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fines, Cordes said.

“The potential to pay a lot more by not doing this was huge, that’s why they came to us,” Cordes said.

Glenn Miller, president of the Pheasant Run Homeowners Association, agreed that if the development had tried to go it alone the costs of the dealing with the failing sewer system would have been far higher. He said other options they looked at were more expensive than the deal reached with the county.

“We don’t have the money to fix our system,” he said. “They’re fixing our sewers plus pumping it to LaGrange.”

Miller said while some residents are concerned about the cost, particularly those on a fixed income, most seem to recognize the county represents the best deal they’re going to get.

“It’s a good thing for the residents and Pheasant Run,” Miller said.

Cordes said the county also has made arrangements to get a low-interest $4.3 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is awaiting final approval. The interest rate will be 2.25 percent, which is included in the assessments charged to homeowners, as are contingencies.

That could bring the total amount that ends up being repaid to the USDA up to around $7.8 million when the project is finally paid off two or three decades from now, Cordes said.

The project, which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2018, has been in the works for two years, but Cordes said the county couldn’t request final approval for the loan until the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency approved moving Pheasant Run from the county’s facilities planning area to LaGrange’s planning area. NOACA approved the change earlier this week.

Cordes said although the sewers will continue to belong to the county, LaGrange wouldn’t be able to process the sewage unless the planning areas were changed.

The other advantage of the new sewer system, Cordes and Miller both said, is that it will allow for new construction in Pheasant Run, something that has been blocked because the overloaded and outdated sewer plant can’t handle additional customers.

Builders will be charged a fee of roughly $4,000 to tie into the new sewer system, Cordes said.

He also warned that when the sewer lines are being repaired, some lines connecting individual homes to the system also might need to be fixed and those costs would be assessed to the individual homeowners.

The county commissioners plan to hold a public hearing 9:30 a.m. April 4 at the Lorain County Administration Building, 226 Middle Ave., Elyria, to discuss the project with residents. Cordes said the meeting isn’t required under the law, but the commissioners wanted to have it so residents can ask questions and make comments.

“We’re not required to have these public hearings,” Cordes said. “We’re having them because we believe they’re necessary.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.



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