University Park property owners told Riley County commissioners Thursday morning they were not happy with the commission’s plans to replace their decaying sewer system.
The system, which was built in 1962, was found to be leaking into the ground and on May 19 Riley County Environmental Health Specialist Steve DeHart issued an emergency order which cited the Board of County Commissioners as the University Park Sewer District Board and alleged a violation of the Riley County Sanitary Code by allowing ‘improper discharge of waste-water.’
Because University Park —which is east of Riley on the shore of Tuttle Creek Lake — is a benefit district, any upgrades or repairs to infrastructure must be paid for by its property owners, according to Riley County Counselor Clancy Holeman.
The cost of the project is estimated at $4.2 million, though a federal grant from the USDA—— if awarded — would pay for roughly half that. The application for that grant is due July 15.
Even with the grant, it will be a costly bill for University Park’s 105 property owners, which is proposed to be paid through a 40-year bond at an interest rate of 3.5 percent.
The county estimates it will cost lot owners an additional $350 to $450 per year.
A handful of University Park property owners were present at the commission meeting Thursday, and their views were mixed.
One property owner told commissioners he disagreed with the project and would consider selling his property due to the added cost.
Another asked why her taxes she’s paid throughout the years aren’t fixing it.
Holeman explained that because it’s a benefit district and no reserve account was ever set up for it, there is no “pot of money” set aside and that fees property owners already pay go to the entire district’s regular upkeep, which is minimal.
One property owner supported the project, though, saying the project is necessary.
Commissioner Dave Lewis and Chairman Bob Boyd said they wished the situation didn’t exist, but that the county was left with few options.
“The alternative, as (Assistant County Counselor Craig) Cox said, is that if we do nothing, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment could come in and shut your facility down and you’ll have eviction notices,” Boyd said. “We understand this is a big deal.”
“It’s disappointing, to say the least,” he said. “But we’re in a position where we have little alternatives, here.
“We appreciate your comments and understand your frustrations, but this really is a best-case scenario for the situation, and we really have no alternatives but to take this action.”