by Alan McArthur
A plan by the Park Hill School District to install a sewer line connecting Union Chapel Elementary School is in the beginning stage while school officials attempt to negotiate with neighboring property owners.
The sewer line being installed by the school district will run from Union Chapel along Hampton Road to the intersection of North National Drive and North Crooked Road.
The elementary school currently has a small sewage treatment facility near the playground of the school. The facility is open to the air and was built in the 1970's to handle the sewage generated at the school.
According to Jim Rich, director of operations for Park Hill, the district received a letter from the Department of Natural Resources, (DNR) in 2005 stating that after the district's permit for the facility expires in 2011, they would need to rebuild the facility.
“The letter said eventually we'd have to do something different, because of changes taking effect,” said Rich. “The DNR will force us to do a sewer of some kind.”
The path chosen by the district and engineers from Lutgen Engineering follows a creek to allow the construction of a gravity sewer for 9,000 feet through the valley.
The proposed sewer line is also listed in the Master Plan for the Platte County Regional Sewer District (PCRSD). Once the sewer line is constructed, the line will become the property of PCRSD and will be maintained by the sewer district.
According to Chuck Reineke, executive director of PCRSD, the master plan was created in 1995 to show the district's goals for installing lines for the next 20 years.
“Most of the projects have happened within 10 years and we are getting ready to update the Master Plan,” said Reineke.
Other options were also discussed by district representatives before deciding on the proposed line.
Rich said one option was to go up Hampton Road, but that would require a sewage pump to get over the hill, however once the line through the valley is constructed in the future, the district would be forced to pay to connect and could not use the line along Hampton Road.
Another option would be to also build a line with a sewage pump over the hill behind the school and run the line toward a recently constructed line along Interstate 435 in Parkville. However, the district would still be forced to connect to a line through the valley in the future.
According to Rich, another option proposed was to run along 45 Highway, however, the road travels along the top of a ridge for part of the way and also travels up and down several hills.
After considering the options, the district decided to go ahead and build the 9,000 foot line with an estimated construction cost of $960,000.
Paul Kelly, assistant superintendent of business services for Park Hill, said the district was trying to find the best solution for taxpayer money to be spent.
“The fear was while there are other solutions, they could become very costly and then become obsolete,” said Kelly.
Guidelines for sewer lines from the PCRSD require that residents whose homes are within 400 feet of a sewer line must hook into the line.
If the district builds a line with a sewage pump, the line is pressurized, and no other residents would be able to hook into the line.
According to Rich, the line will cross 19 properties through the valley and the district will acquire easements to construct the line.
Kelly said the district has budgeted $1.25 million for the construction and to purchase easements from the landowners.
Part of the amount budgeted came from a bond issue in 2006 and the other portion is coming out of the district's capital improvements fund. The amount approved in 2006 was $650,000 for the construction.
Rich said one requirement for Lutgen was to find the best route for the line while disturbing the fewest trees possible.
“We are getting appraisals now for the properties and to get an idea of what the trees are worth,” said Rich.
The district will negotiate with property owners for the easements and will pay for trees removed during the construction process.
“Until we get the easements, we don't know what the total cost will be,” said Rich.
The district is required by the PCRSD to get a 20 foot wide permanent easement and a 50 foot wide construction easement for the sewer line.
If a property owner's home is within 400 feet of the line they will be required to connect to the sewer line, according to guidelines set by PCRSD. Being required to connect to the sewer line means the owners will also have to pay a connection fee.
According to Kelly and Rich, the district will not know exactly how much the connection fee will be for residents until the negotiations for easements are completed, and a total cost is known.
The connection fee is determined after the total cost for the construction is figured and then divided by the number of expected sewer connections.
The district will also be reimbursed part of the construction cost of the project through the connection fees.
According to Kelly, the district is attempting to negotiate with the PCRSD to get about a 20 year window to try to receive reimbursements for the cost. The district can only be reimbursed for the amount of money taken from the district's capital improvements fund.
“We don't know what development might occur so we're not sure how long it will take to reimburse the fund,” said Kelly.
If the number of people connecting to the line before 20 years causes the fund to be fully reimbursed, then the district's connection fee will stop.
“The moment at which the fund is paid off, there will be no connection fees,” said Kelly.
According to Reineke, connection fees in the PCRSD range from between $500 to as much as $14,000 per dwelling connected. The fees include the cost of constructing the sewer and to pay for the treatment facility.
The homes in the area are currently on separate septic systems now.
The district is currently required to report on the outflow from the sewage facility at the school to the DNR. Rich said that the school district has not had problems with the outflow at the facility. However, being open to the elements means a heavy rain could cause sewage to flow from the facility without settling first.
After the sewer line is constructed, Rich said the district will tear out the current sewage facility at Union Chapel Elementary.