sewer2012_120The Lansing Sewer Committee voted to change its recommendation Wednesday from a partial to a town-wide sewer district.  The new plan would include the whole Town of Lansing with the exception of the Village of Lansing and Cherry Road residents whose properties are in the Ithaca School District.  Engineer David Herrick presented the committee with initial estimates of what sewer might cost in a two-tiered assessment plan in which all district property owners would pay a portion of the capital debt.

The first tier would include properties within the service area.  Those property owners would be responsible for 60% of the debt payment, while tier 2 properties that are not within the initial service area would pay 40%.  Tier 1 properties would have additional expenses such as operation and maintenance and usage fees.

The preliminary Ad Valorem dollar amount estimates for tier-two properties are between $31.66 and $22.08 per $100,000 of assessed property value.  The final numbers will be dependent on the kind of financing the Town can procure.

That was a dramatic change from last week's recommendation of a three tiered partial-town district.  Town Councilwomen Katrina Binkewicz and Ruth Hopkins were reportedly unhappy with that approach that would have charged the highest rate for those within the initial service area, a second level for those outside the service area but likely to receive service in the future, and the lowest rate to a few properties that are unlikely to ever get service.  Both were present at Wednesday's meeting.

Councilman Ed LaVigne presented his analysis of how district property owners are likely to vote based on the value of their property vs. the cost of sewer.  Ironically the analysis showed that people within the initial service area are less likely to vote for sewer than those who would not initially receive service.  LaVigne estimated that of 240 eligible voters 167 are likely to vote no.  But committee member Noel Desch said that while his estimates are similar he thinks as many as 50 of those tier-one voters might be swayed to a yes vote.

The success of the sewer project will depend on all votes within the town-wide district, not just those in the initial service area.  Again using property values to estimate a yea or nay vote, committee members estimated the much larger tier-two is more likely to vote in favor of sewer provided they are presented with the facts of the project in a palatable and understandable manner.

To that end a subcommittee was formed to determine dollar amounts of tangible benefits sewer will bring to taxpayers, as well as intangible benefits.  The information will be used to explain project benefits to property owners who will vote on whether or not to build a sewer.

Herrick continues to work on a property-by-property analysis of the proposed district, which changes the Map Plan Report needed to define the project yet again.  The committee originally looked at a very narrow project that would create Sewer District #1  in a strip reaching from the Lansing schools, along Ridge Road, and up Auburn Road to the state juvenile detention facilities, with a dip to include the Ladoga Park neighborhood and Myers Park.

They briefly considered an all-town district similar to one in the Town of Ithaca, but then focussed on a partial-town district that would exclude the Village of Lansing as well as the northern portion of the town, above Buck Road.  This week the plan came back to an all-town approach.

The new plan seems to have more support from Town Board members, who are expected to vote on whether to support the plan next month.  Meanwhile committee members and Herrick are pursuing numbers that include complicated formulas that determine how certain kinds of properties are charged, such as exemptions for farm lands.  Herrick said the number of parcels that would qualify for such exemptions are fewer than initially thought.  He said he would consult with Town Attorney Guy Krogh and Tompkins County Assessor Jay Franklin to help nail down the agriculture exemption plan.