Homeowners can expect to see higher water bills when the sewer charge is added.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WEATHERSFIELD -- Although the heavy machinery has been cutting through their Hilltop neighborhood for some time, some homeowners don't know much about what's going on.
"I didn't go to the meetings," admits 78-year-old Catherine Donaldson as she sat on the porch of her Trumbull Avenue home.
"It shouldn't cost me anything," said Donaldson.
"It" is a 6-mile-long sanitary sewer line running in front of her home that Kirila Contractors of Brookfield has been installing since May. It is expected to cost about $4.5 million and is scheduled to be completed by year's end.
It would have been more costly if not for $3 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $700,000 in state Issue 2 funds and $1.3 million in community development block grant money.
Without the government assistance, property owners could have paid as much as $10,000 each for the line, but the project was able to attract government funding because of the large number of low- and moderate-income residents.
Gary Shaffer of the Trumbull County Planning Commission said those with low incomes will pay a minimum amount based on a sliding scale, but those above the minimum income level must pay a $1,050 one-time tap-in fee and $2,000 to $4,000 for a lateral connection from the sewer at the street to the house.
Rex Fee, assistant county sanitary engineer, said the cost of paying off the low-interest loans will be assessed to customers.
Tina Miller of Covington Avenue says her usual $60 water bill will double, if not triple.
Residents will be charged a $4.20 sewer fee per 1,000 gallons of water used. They will also be charged $15 to $20 per month toward paying off the loans.
Thomas Holloway, county sanitary engineer, said the average family of four uses 5,000 gallons of water monthly.
Thus, homeowners can expect to see an estimated $108 to $123 in sewer charges added to their quarterly water bills, Holloway said, noting the final figures will be computed once the project is complete.
Miller is among 88 low- and moderate-income Hilltoppers. She hasn't worked since1998 when her son was born.
Miller, 36, has lived in her house 12 years. It doesn't have a septic system; the sewage flows to the Mahoning River.
"I feel the government should pay for all of it," Miller said.
The project was ordered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
An EPA inspection found inadequate or failing septic systems resulting in raw and partially treated sewage in ditches and storm sewers that empty into the river.
"I'm satisfied with my septic tank," Donaldson said, noting her husband built it, along with a bathroom, after they bought the house in 1967. Before that, the Donaldsons used an outhouse.
Donaldson, whose only income is Social Security, said she believes her septic system is working. It was last tested 10 years ago.
Diana Francis, who also lives on Trumbull, said the septic system on the side of her house is used by two neighboring homeowners.
The 48-year-old Francis said the system functions only half the time, resulting in a foul odor.
Francis, who also lives solely on Social Security, said she's not opposed to the new system.
"I just wish they'd get it in," she adding, noting she had to stay with relatives in Niles for three days because she couldn't get to her home because of the construction.
"It's messed up everything. They got things torn up," she complained.
Construction will be done before the end of the year, Shaffer said.
In the dark
"We don't know what's going on" said a Hilltop resident who declined to identify herself.
She said her home, too, has no septic system and doesn't know where the sewage from it ends up. Her brother told her she doesn't want to know.
John Budrevich, 68, will have to pay for two installations -- one in the house in which he lives and another he rents.
Standing in front of his Youngstown Avenue home watching the construction work, Budrevich said he can't do anything about the work nor its cost.
"I'm all right with it," he said, adding he would rather the project be done 20 years from now when he most likely will be dead.