by Alan McArthur
Park Hill School District representatives met with the Platte County Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees on Wednesday to discuss the proposed Union Chapel sewer project.
The project was proposed by the school district to connect Union Chapel Elementary School to a sewer system and remove a sewage package plant at the school. According to Jim Rich, director of operations, the plant was built in 1977 and will have to comply with new regulations from the Missouri Department on Natural Resources, DNR.
The proposed line would run 1.7 miles and cost around $957,000.
Paul Kelly, assistant superintendent for business and technology, told the directors that the school district had put the project on hold because of the large estimated costs reported by residents required to connect to the line.
Kelly said some of the residents have received quotes of between $80,000 and $140,000.
“It was never our expectation to place families in financial hardship, the goal of the project was to connect to a gravity fed sewer,” said Rich.
Kelly then asked that the sewer district perhaps grant flexibility in the regulation of requiring homes within 400 feet of the sewer line to connect.
Lewis Sanders, board chairman, said that variances are granted on a case by case basis. Sanders said that generally variances are granted after an engineering study is completed.
“The dilemma (the school district) faces is if the $140,000 is correct, we're not comfortable proceeding with the project unless we know or have confirmation of variances for us to move forward,” said Kelly.
Chuck Reineke, director, said that generally it would be a developer who would come to the sewer board and ask for the variances.
“Usually a developer asks for changes, but we understand the school district's dilemma,” said Reineke. “I suggest we get together and find ideas to address this situation other than on an individual basis.”
Reineke said the sewer line would not be built to service the residents, but to service the school.
Valerie McCaw, board treasurer, said that usually developers pay for the cost of connections.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we figure in $140,000 or even $80,000,” said Kelly. “If the numbers are included in the counter offers, the numbers are way out of budget. We did not anticipate this.”
“I would like to see our staff work with the school district,” said Sanders. “I understand there is a problem and we need to come together.”
“This board has been extremely flexible to issues even if outside of regular meetings,” said Deb Hammond, board vice-chairman. “A lot of kids go to that school and anything we can do to help better the education opportunities would be a good thing.”
“We realize we are asking for something outside the norm. Whatever you decide, we can live with,” said Kelly.
The school board put the sewer project on hold at its meeting on Sept. 25 because of the high prices reported by residents. Several residents have fought the proposed sewer line because of the costs to residents who by regulation would be required to connect to the sewer line, the removal of trees, and because of the overall project cost.
School district officials have said they are trying to address several goals with the gravity sewer system. Those goals are to eliminate odors at the school, eliminate ongoing complaints about odor, comply with DNR regulations, decrease maintenance costs, and address the age/condition of the plant.
The district hopes to regain some of the costs spent on the project through fees assessed to future connections to the sewer line.