(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of series regarding the efforts to create a sewer conservancy district on Tippecanoe Lake.)
LEESBURG — The Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative was formed almost a year ago. Through their own financial resources and raising of funds, research began. This included hiring of engineers to determine the best scenario.
Opponents to the conservancy district feel a conservancy district is not required to install the sewer system. The group also feels if a sewer system is implemented housing developments around the lakes may quickly happen, potentially changing the small lake atmosphere.
The initiative felt using a conservancy district would allow those in the district to represent themselves as the board would be formed of property owners. These individuals could then dictate how the district was operated and the sewer operations priced. It could also figure how to implement the project and make it affordable.
Organizing a regional sewer district, the property owners would not have a say on the representation, how the district is operated or the cost. A regional sewer district would dictate the cost. This can also be more expensive and/or not be economically fair to the economic means of individual landowners and what they can afford, noted Shelley Moore, CEO Founder of Insight Strategic Concepts, who has been hired as a communications specialist. “We are not proposing this structure. We want a locally-led and decided solution that is right for the residents.”
Top sewer experts to assess and cost this project have been hired by the Lake Tippecanoe Sewer Initiative group. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars in recent months to provide detailed information. These experts have estimated the total project will cost between $32-$34 million. By utilizing the conservancy district that cost can be more evenly distributed rather than a flat fee. “This will make it more affordable for everyone,” said Moore.
According to the sewer initiative’s website www.sustainourlake.com, the proposed project would require homeowners a one time up front cost to run the sewer lines and connect. Then there would be a monthly operation, maintenance and repair fee of $25 per home and an annual property tax assessment fee. Moore stated well over one-half of the homes on the lake have an assessed valuation of under $200,000. The actual amount to be assessed based on assessed valuation would be decided later by the locally-led conservancy district.
Additionally, the website included the annual estimated tax per household, based on a grant percentage awarded and the assessed value of a home. One such example is a property with an assessed valuation of $150,000. If there is no grant funding a tax of 34 cents per $100 in assessed valuation would cost $510. A 15 percent grant funding on that same property would be 29 cents per $100 or $435 and a 25 percent grant funding would be 26 cents per $100, or $390. Of course the larger the grant awarded, the greater the savings for home owners.
These figures assumes there is a USDA 40-year loan, there’s a one-time system connection fee and a tax rate based on the un-adjusted assessed value of the district. Other factors that impact the cost are the number of households sharing the cost, labor and material costs at construction time, density of connections, wastewater treatment costs, interest rates and the communities’ ability to qualify for grants and/or low interest loans.
Moore noted North Webster and Webster Lake sewers are owned by the town and operated through a contractor. Knapp Lake established a conservancy district and just completed the construction of a sewer system this past summer and fed into the North Webster treatment plant.
Turkey Creek Regional Sewer District operates the sewer system around Lake Wawasee and the Lakeland Regional Sewer District is responsible for the sewer systems being installed around the Barbee Lakes.