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Clock Ticking For Schools and Sewer

Mar152013

Clock Ticking For Schools and Sewer

 

sewer2012_120Timing is everything for the Lansing sewer project.  The Lansing school district is on the verge of having to replace three major septic systems, and two state juvenile detention centers on Auburn Road are also racing the clock to replace its aging stand-alone sewage treatment plant.  Lansing Supervisor Kathy Miller and Town Engineer David Herrick met with New York and juvenile detention center representatives Monday to try to convince the State to wait until the sewer vote later this year.

"They had asked (facilities manager for the two state detention centers) Jeff Georgia to go out for bids on their system in May," Miller reported Wednesday to the Lansing Sewer Committee.  "The lawyer kept saying 'we don't know what's going to happen to this facility so we can't say that we would hook up to sewer.'  Everybody else was very much in favor of hooking up to sewer."

Miller speculated the lawyer's hesitation to commit to sewer could mean that the State might be planning to close both the Finger lakes Residential Center (boys) and lansing Residential Center (girls) facilities.  The girls school is slated to be close some time this year.

Miller says she argued that even if the schools close being hooked up to sewer will make them more valuable when they go up for sale.  Herrick says hookup for the state facilities would not be a huge expense because there is an existing pumping facility for the girls school that brings effluent to the private sewage plant.  Sewage from that point would run downhill in a gravity feed to a municipal sewer.

Miller reported that detention facilities manager Jeff Georgia has been told to put a new sewage treatment facility out for bid by May.  She says Georgia is interested in hooking up to a municipal sewer, and says he could keep the current plant working for the two or so years it would take for a municipal sewer to be built and brought online.

State officials were unwilling or unable to provide a definitive decision on waiting for a municipal sewer.  Agreeing to wait for the Town could push construction on a new stand-alone facility into the next construction year is municipal sewer fails to garner enough votes in September.  But Town officials say it could eventually save the State money because they would not need employees to run their own plant.

"They didn't give us a definitive answer," Miller said.  "They should do that relatively soon.  They want to be sure their system wouldn't break down before a sewer becomes available."

The Lansing Central School District is in a similar bind.  Two of its three large septic systems are failing, with the third expected to reach the end of its useful life next year.  The schools are looking at about two million dollars to replace the three systems, and school officials are anxious to hook up to sewer.  Because of state aid for public school construction projects the immediate cost to the schools would be similar for new septic or sewer.  Eventually sewer would save the district money.  But the danger is that if a system fails while the schools are waiting for sewer it would have to be replaced immediately.

School officials are advocating for the sewer project because it will encourage planned development in the center of town that will increase the tax base and make up for revenue losses from the Cayuga Power Plant, which continues to hemorrhage taxable value, putting a large burden to make up lost school revenue on homeowners.

Sewer committee members are planning a public information meeting April 23rd at 7pm in the Lansing Middle School.  The committee spent most of its Wednesday meeting going over a presentation and assigning speakers to each slide.  The committee plans to run through the presentation for the Planning board on April 8th.

Miller says the Map Plan and Report, the official document that outlines the project for the State Comptroller and the public, should be complete and ready to distribute to residents by the end of March.  She says it will be mailed to residents, and made available on the Town Web site and in the Town Hall.  That may mean the Town Board will accept the MPR at its meeting next Wednesday, or by early April.  That approval is part of the process that will lead to a vote in September.

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