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School Superintendent Explains Septic Cost To Town

May092014
school_aerial2When the Lansing municipal sewer project was being considered last year the school district came up with a rough estimate of what it would cost to replace their three septic systems to determine whether or not it would be worth hooking up to the sewer.  At that time estimates came to 1.2 to 2 million dollars.  When the project was killed school officials scrambled to plan the replacement of their failing septic systems.  In January contractors estimated it would cost $5 million.  That was revised downward to $4.1 million a month later because it was determined that the old septic systems could be capped and retired without the cost of physically removing them.

But some proponents of the municipal sewer project reportedly grumbled that the lower estimates helped kill the project, arguing that if taxpayers had realized how expensive the school septic replacement really turned out to be versus the lower cost of hooking up to municipal sewer that it may have swayed sewer opponents to support the Town project.  No one has gone on the record to claim the lower estimates tanked the sewer project, and it was not explicitly mentioned at Wednesday's Town Board meeting where Lansing School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso explained the project and clarified the reasons for the project that will cost more than double the original 'ball park' estimate.

"When we were talking about the septic system cost for the school district it was around $1.2 million dollars.  It is still around $1.2 million, but we're doing additional work.  So even though it is a septic project and that is the bulk of the project, we are tearing up softball fields and the majority of our land, we are replacing and updating some of that."

Chris Pettograsso at Town BoardLansing School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso (right) explains the school septic replacement costs to the Lansing Town Board (left to right) Supervisor Kathy Miller and council members Ruth Hopkins, Ed LaVigne and Doug Dake

Pettograsso said that they could not know how to reconfigure the ballfields until an actual septic replacement plan was in place.  She said reconfiguring the fields on the school campus will eliminate the expense of bussing modified softball teams to the Town ballfields, saving money for the school district in the long run.

Additional components of the project are security fencing, a loading dock, paving, and other costs that Pettograsso said were not considered in the initial estimates.

All three septic systems have reached the end of their estimated useful life, and two have required repeated repairs to nurse them along until a replacement decision could be made.  The project will include three separate septic systems, each with its own septic tank and sand filtration with a service discharge to an ultra-violet disinfection system.  From there the water will discharge to a storm sewer, swale, or ditch.  Much of the expense has to do with having to move 18,000 tons of earth.

"We did look at building a sewer (and a package treatment plant) right on campus, but it was just too expensive for us," she said.  "So we're just replacing our existing septics."

Pettograsso said that the project does not represent additional cost to taxpayers because of debt that is being retired this year.  She noted that about 66.5% of the cost will be paid for by state aid.  She said that if the project is approved in the vote next week the actual construction will not begin until next summer.  School taxpayers will elect three board members and vote next Tuesday (May 20th) on whether to approve a $27.8 million budget, the septic project and bus purchases.

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