City to address sewer expansion

Assembly will take public testimony about North Douglas project at meeting tonight

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2007

The Juneau Assembly will take public testimony at its regular meeting tonight on an ordinance to create a Local Improvement District in North Douglas to help fund sewer expansion.

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The improvement district would require property owners to pay a portion of the cost associated with connecting to the city sewer system. The 106 properties included in the improvement district would pay approximately $1.5 million of the projected $7.1 million cost for this phase of sewer expansion, Deputy Engineering Director Rorie Watt said.

The Assembly meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The city plans to break the construction of the sewer expansion into three phases, he said. The city must still figure out permitting and easement details prior to knowing how it will proceed with construction, Watt said.

"We're still a little up in the air because of which one will go first," he said.

Bidding for the first stage of construction is likely to take place sometime this winter, Watt said.

"We expect over the next year or so to get three construction projects out to bid," he said.

The city has assessed costs for the 106 properties in the improvement district that vary from property to property, depending on square footage and several other factors, Watt said. Assessed costs range from $6,500 for a single family home, to as much as $130,000 for the largest parcel of land.

If the ordinance is approved by the Assembly tonight, the eventual construction will allow for large parcels of land to connect to the city's sewer system and open up areas for future development.

"It's certainly going to open up land," Watt said. "Probably the most complicated part of the project is implications for land development."

North Douglas Neighborhood Association board member Cheryl Van Dyke said there are concerns that the sewer expansion could change the character of the neighborhood.

"The big picture concern is whether the sewer will become the catalyst of a great deal of change for North Douglas," she said.

If the Assembly approves the ordinance on Monday, the neighborhood association will work with the city to ensure the construction affects the current residents of North Douglas as minimally as possible, Van Dyke said.

At this point, Van Dyke believes the Assembly will vote in favor of forming the improvement district. Other questions and concerns still remain, she said.

"We'll discuss our next steps as far as how we will move forward, because there are still a lot of concerns not only about the costs of sewer installations of each household, but concerns about the assessment methodology," Van Dyke said.

If the improvement district is created, property owners will be formally notified about the assessment against their property, Watt said. Once construction is complete, the city will finalize the assessments against each property, he said. The assessments are always under discussion until the improvement district is finalized, which means the costs could change for property owners.

"It won't grow, but it could go down," Watt said.

The city also is considering another improvement district on North Douglas to eventually connect approximately 45 other properties to the sewer system, Watt said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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