SALEM Board to hear complaints about sewer project

At issue is how much affected residents will pay for a sewer system planned to alleviate a pollution risk.
SALEM -- A public meeting is set for later this month to hear complaints that assessments planned for a sewer project are too high.
The city's Assessment Equalization Board will meet at 5 p.m. Feb. 21 in city council chambers to hear objections filed by residents who will be affected by the $5,000 assessments.
The board's members are Atty. Theresa Tolson of West State Street; John Hudson of South Lincoln Avenue and Robert Magyaros of Highland Avenue.
Their appointments were approved by city council earlier this year.
The assessment objections were filed by three of the nearly 140 homeowners affected by the sewer project, utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said Tuesday.
Outcomes: The equalization board will review their objections and the project itself and then recommend to city council whether the assessment amounts should remain the same or be lowered.
City council can accept or reject the board's recommendation.
Any change in assessments would affect all homeowners involved in the sewer project, not just the three objectors, Weingart said.
The problem: At issue is a plan to install sewer in a residential section on the city's northeast side currently served by septic tanks.
Many of the tanks are failing, which is posing a pollution risk.
To fix the problem, the city is willing to install municipal sewer service and to pay for half the job. Affected homeowners are being assessed for the other half of the cost.
The lowest construction bid is about $1.2 million. Nearly $200,000 more will be spent in engineering and other costs, bringing the estimated project total to about $1.4 million.
At $5,000, the assessments will bring in about $700,000, Weingart said.
The assessments can be paid monthly over 20 years at 6 percent interest.
Weingart said he's hopeful the new lines can be installed by fall.

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