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sewer2012_120The Lansing Sewer Committee continued to prepare Wednesday for upcoming public meetings while also pursuing funding options.  An informal survey of Ladoga Park residents found most generally positive about the prospect of bringing sewer to their neighborhood.  But neighbors were concerned about the cost.

There was good news and bad news on the cost front.  The bad news is that early indicators from the Environmental Facilities Corporation's (EFC) are that the project won't qualify for a reduced interest rate, though it will probably qualify for a market rate loan.  Committee members said this was expected, and alternate funding options like renewable BANs (Bond Anticipation Notes) are expected to fund the project in the initial years with more favorable rates.

A private development that could account for 138 units may also hook up to the sewer at the developer's expense.  If this works out the added units would lower the cost per unit for residents and businesses in the proposed sewer district.

Committee member Noel Desch said he had talked to most of his Ladoga Park neighbors, most of whom favor a sewer as long as it is affordable.  One neighbor told Desch he is against it because he has just installed a costly septic system.  Septic systems are more costly in the lakeside neighborhood because the land there is not conducive to septic systems, and is prone to flooding.

That prompted a discussion of a policy that will require residents to hook up to the sewer within a certain amount of time after it becomes available.  While no firm policy was set, the discussion revolved around people with new septic systems getting about ten years to hook up, while those with older or failing systems would be given a few years.  District residents hooking up is needed to fund the project.

Desch said that the hook up policy will impact revenue.  He said he thinks as a matter of principal that it would be unfair to charge Operation and Maintenance costs to people who are not yet hooked up.

Committee member Andy Sciarabba distributed a summary of the project that has been submitted in a pre-application process for what he hopes will yield a $3 million grant.  The summary closely links the sewer project to plans for a Lansing Town Center, which committee members have likened to a 'chicken and egg' conundrum: the density needed to attract developers envisioned for the Town Center will not be possible without the sewer, and the sewer will not be possible without firm commitments by developers to build a certain number of units that will use (and help pay for) the sewer.

Most of the 150 acre parcel across the street from the Town Hall and ballfields will be used for mixed residential areas, including senior housing and cottage style homes.  Frontage on 34B will potentially have a small retail and professional building center, and a business and technology park is planned for the northern part of the parcel.

"The wastewater treatment plant and Town Center infrastructure are critical to implement the Lansing Town Center Master Plan, which will leverage private investment," the summary explains.  "The Plan lays out 50 acres of commercial and industrial land that could support up to 350,000 square feet of private industrial development, and 100 acres that support a mix of 500 affordable and market rate housing units.  All of this planned development will be completed by private and not for profit developers."

Committee members envision the Town building two main roads on the property and installing infrastructure in order to attract developers.  Initial market rate estimates are costly, though officials say costs can be cut because the Town Highway Department is capable of building roads in-house.  Sciarabba said he has talked to a private paving company to get an idea of what the commercial rate would be.  Supervisor Kathy Miller says any expenses incurred by the town will be recovered as the land is sold for development.

Other discussion centered on the way fees will be charged by EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit).  Some sewer districts charge by EDU while others base their sewer charges on the amount of water used by each unit.  The Cayuga Heights Treatment Plant is in the process of switching over to the water flow model.  But Lansing's rates will be based on the EDU model.  Miller said that model is more equitable for residents.

"There are leaks in the main lines, and you end up paying for more than you may be using," Miller said.  "The other thing is that for some people that water isn't going through the sewer.  It's going to water their lawn, or to wash a car.  So it's really not equitable to base the sewer bill on the water bill."

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