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sewermanhole120When a major sewer project in Town of Lansing was killed in 2007, it looked like the end of sewer for the Town. But sewer wasn't entirely dead. Not long after that defeat a smaller town sewer project was completed on Warren Road. A week and a half ago Village of Lansing Mayor Donald Hartill and Village of Cayuga Heights Mayor Linda Woodard met with Lansing Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne, Town Planing Consultant Mike Long, and Cayuga Heights engineer Brent Cross to talk about how future growth in the Town can be served with sewer.

"This is encouraging as we try to be pro-growth, but also as development moves out from the densest part of the Town," LaVigne said at a Village Trustees meeting Monday. "That's what people in our Comprehensive Plan and yours want to do so we don't have sprawl."

If the Town is to expand its sewer districts it will need a way to get effluent to the Cayuga Heights Sewer Processing Plant. That means going through Village of Lansing infrastructure. LaVigne said that as development in the southern portion of the Town grows northward, an agreement between the Town and two villages could be win-win-win.

In a report read by Deputy Mayor Gerry Monaghan Monday, Village of Lansing Mayor Donald Hartill, unable to be present at Monday's meeting, said the Town is asking for between 500 and 1,000 additional units of sewer capacity. The current flow through the plant is 1.3 MGD (million gallons per day), and its capacity is 2.0 MGD. He said he has requested 700 units (one unit is calculated at 328 gallons per day), which will exhaust the capacity of the plant.

"I think the 700 units is critical," LaVigne said. "From there we'll see where the pipes go, but the main thing is our ability to hook up to something. One step at a time."

LaVigne opposed the town-wide sewer project, but has repeatedly said that he sees development in the town moving north from the Town/Village border. That may eventually mean sewer projects like the Warren Road project moving north along Triphammer Road, a direction Hartill said he favors. LaVigne said that the uncertain fate of the Town and Lansing Central School District's largest taxpayer, the Cayuga Power Plant, means that new development must be encouraged to replace large amounts of property tax revenue that could disappear if the plant eventually closes.

"Of course we are concerned about the power plant," he said. "Growth is one way you can insure that you don't have any drastic changes in your tax base, especially for the Town, because the school district is more involved. It's critical for us that we have something to offset it if the worst happens."

The Village of Lansing sewer system is serviced by the Village of Cayuga Heights treatment facility on East Shore Drive. The plant's daily capacity is about 1.3 million gallons and it has a permit to process 2 million gallons a day. When Town sewer plans raised concerns that the capacity would be exceeded a moratorium was placed on Village hookups.

The Kline Road Bypass project changed that. The bypass enabled additional sewage from the Town of Ithaca, and the Villages of Cayuga Heights and Lansing to be conveyed the Ithaca Plant for treatment. With the completion of the bypass, the moratorium was lifted. But the Village of Lansing ended up paying the full cost of the project, a bone of contention because the Town would have been a major beneficiary if its sewer project had gone forward.

After the town project died, then Supervisor Scott Pinney requested that portions of the $4.2 million of State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Bond Act money earmarked for the town-wide project be used to reimburse the Town for $1.5 million to reimburse the town for planning and design costs in developing the failed project. But the DEC said no, and did not even address a request to use part of the bond act money to reimburse the Village for the Kline Road bypass.

To add insult to injury, the bypass has never been needed.

"It hasn't been used, but it's been available for a number of years," Village Attorney David Dubow noted at Monday's meeting.

That could change if the Town increases its sewer use. The Village charges a premium for the use of its own sewer infrastructure to move effluent to the Cayuga Heights plant. That income will increase as sewer infrastructure is built out into the Town.

"As we pay to get in we will pay a premium," LaVigne told the Village Trustees. "It's win-win. It's similar to when Bolton Point sold water to the City of Ithaca this year while Ithaca renovated their plant."

Hartill said that in addition to the Town and Village of Lansing and the Village of Cayuga Heights, the Town of Ithaca and a small portion of the Town of Dryden also uses the Cayuga Heights plant. He said he will organize another meeting of all the users before the end of the year to begin further planning.

"We are starting the process and it will probably be early next year before any firm committments will be made," Hartill said in his report. "But I see a good path forward."

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