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City offers to split cost of Solon lift station

SOLON– Let’s make a deal.
The city has offered to split the cost of a $100,000 lift station with the developers of Windmill Estates in an attempt to move the next phase of the subdivision forward.
The sewage lift station would be a temporary solution to a problem that will be solved in the long run by the completion of the city’s North Trunk sewer line, a $1 million project.
At last week’s Solon city council meeting, Windmill representative John Schmidt again visited with council members and city staff regarding sewer service for the 10-year-old subdivision.
The two sides had previously discussed the issue at a June 18 meeting, after which two council committees– utility and finance– were directed to meet and discuss the problem, according to City Administrator Cami Rasmussen.
The utilities committee, she said, concluded “development has proceeded a little quicker than anticipated, and our progress on the north trunk sewer improvement has not gone as quickly as anticipated.”
The committee suggested the 50/50 split on the cost of the lift station, she said.
“We were trying to figure out a way to do the North Trunk sewer but it was not feasible at this time on a tight budget,” said council member Casey Grover.
Rasmussen indicated it the city was several steps and a few years from being able to do the new sewer line, which would replace an aerial line that currently serves the subdivision.
“However, no one wanted to see development slow, and thought that this was a fair compromise,” Rasmussen said.
In the past, the city has paid for permanent lift stations when needed, Mayor Steve Stange said. But in this case, it would be a temporary fix because the city didn’t anticipate the development moving so rapidly.
“I don’t think any of us felt it would fill this quickly,” Stange said.
But Schmidt wasn’t exactly buying the city’s argument that the cost should be shared.
He pointed to the subdivider’s agreement with the city in which Windmill Estates agrees to pay a $3,000 per lot impact fee to fund water, sewer and storm sewer improvements external to the development.
“I’ve paid in about $147,000 in impact fees that I thought was supposed to go toward sewer and water outside of my subdivision,” Schmidt said.
He pointed out that sewage from Prairie Acres and Fox Ridge subdivisions also runs through Windmill Estates, and that impact fees from those developments should also be used to fund needed improvements.
“I feel like that money has already been collected, and for me to pay for half of it now is like paying for it again,” Schmidt said.
“Between the three developments, we don’t have $1 million in impact fees,” Stange said.
City attorney Jim Martinek noted the city progresses at a regular rate based on budget constraints, scheduling and need. “If it’s an issue of wanting to accelerate development then that would be a benefit over and above what the city would ordinarily provide in the course of its ordinary building of the infrastructure,” Martinek said, although he added there was a time element involved in this case.
“We felt that we had at least 10 years to be able to put that in,” Stange said.
“Well, that’d be pretty close to 10 years,” Schmidt said.
“We can’t do the North Trunk Sewer line right now,” Stange responded. “We just can’t.”
Currently, Windmill Estates is about halfway full.
The subdivision, located roughly between Brosh Chapel and Saddleback Ridge Golf Course, initially came before the city in 2004 when the council approved a zoning request for the first phase, the construction of the E&J Electric offices.
Since then, 49 residential lots have been sold and 29 are developed but unsold, Schmidt said, with 61 lots yet to develop. The development of the subdivision was divided into eight phases, with phase six up next.
According to city engineer Dave Schechinger, the lift station is needed because the newest Windmill Estates phase will be lower than the elevated gravity pipe that spans a ravine just east of Highway 1 adjacent to the development.
Eventually, the elevated line will be replaced by the North Trunk, which will be buried and connected directly with the wastewater treatment center on the west side of town at an estimated cost of $1 million.
Schechinger said flows through the existing pipes have been monitored as recently as June 27. He said the lines have been running at less than half-capacity and only reaching half full at peak events.
Although the city has committed to the North Trunk project in the long-term, he indicated a lift station would not be a waste of money, as it would allow the continuation of development and the pumps and control panels could ultimately be pulled for future uses or emergencies.
When asked by council member Ron Herdliska if Windmill would be willing to do the 50/50 split, Schmidt responded that he wasn’t at liberty to speak on behalf of the development’s other members.
Stange suggested Schmidt go back to the development’s partners with the offer and respond back to Rasmussen prior to the next council meeting, which is currently set for July 16.