Avon Lake City Council gives final OK to sewer work
Avon Lake City Council finalized its approval of the Avon Lake Municipal Utilities’ sewer separation project and lateral installation program Feb. 25. The project requires affected homeowners to separate their sanitary and storm sewers in order for the city to comply with a 2020 EPA mandate deadline.
About 2,400 residents have received letters from ALMU indicating they might need to install the laterals. ALMU estimates the lateral installation will cost about $3,000 and is offering a $1,000 rebate over 10 years to help defray the cost. The city also has waived permit fees and has provided information on available grant money to encourage residents to seek cost savings going forward.
Ward 4 Councilman David Kos said not all residents who received the letter will need to separate and urged them to contact ALMU for assistance. The affected areas include Belmar, Moorewood, Avondale, Fairfield/Berkshire, the 45s Cottage District, and homes that had previously separated foundation drains but still need to install the laterals.
“They will give you an honest idea of what, if anything, you need to do,” he said.
Ward 1 Councilman Rob James noted that residents must comply by the deadlines that have been outlined, or the work will be done for them and they will incur tax assessments on their property taxes.
The lone dissenting vote at the Feb. 25 meeting was cast by Ward 3 Councilman Larry Meiners, who cited the cost, not only of the lateral installation, but also the possibility of secondary costs if driveways would need to be torn up, etc.
“We are forcing Avon Lake citizens to do something they may not have money for,” he said. Meiners also questioned whether the city had the money to complete its portion of the project by the deadline.
Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch, who chairs the Sewer Committee, said the project must be done by the deadline or the city faces penalties of more than $30,000 a day.
“We cannot afford to pay those fines on top of the costs of having to comply. It has to be done,” she said.
Council members have fielded calls from residents citing financial hardships in complying with the mandate. Kos said he understood it would be difficult in the short-term, but said that those residents, many of whom have suffered losses from flooded basements in the past, would benefit in the long term.
Mayor Greg Zilka agreed.
“Two years ago, nearly to the day, this room was filled with people who had substantial damage because their basements were flooded with water and human waste. They lost priceless memorabilia and were paying thousands of dollars to clean up their basements. This plan will reduce that from happening again. We understand this is not done without sacrifice, but it must be done.”
As part of the sewer separation program, ALMU is launching a Sewer Separation Contractor Partner Program. ALMU will be inviting excavator contractors to participate in a “partnership” meeting at ALMU at 8:30 a.m. March 8. All qualified contractors are welcome to attend, but they must be registered with the city.
The meeting will brief contractors as to the specifics of the sewer-separation-linked lateral initiative. ALMU will gather information from the contractors as well, including identifying those who are willing to give residents group discounts. After the meeting, all participating contractors will be listed on avonlakewater.org, as well as in social media and direct-to-resident communications.
“We’ve never done anything quite like this contractor briefing before, but this lateral installation project is unusual, as well,” said Todd Danielson, ALMU’s chief utilities executive. “We want to do everything we can to help make this process easier for our homeowners who are involved.”
In other council news:
• The city and the board of the Folger Home are working on extending its lease, which expires in March.
• Engineering Manager Joe Reitz said the Lear Road-Walker Road expansion project is set to begin with The Illuminating Co. relocating utility poles. He noted the intersection will not close during the project, which involves adding a right-turn lane.
See more Avon Lake news at cleveland.com/avon-lake.
Higley is a freelancer from Avon Lake. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.