Public hearing set to discuss Lansing sewer

Published 11:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2010

The ongoing process to provide the Lansing area with a sanitary sewer system, which was initiated by a citizen petition four years ago, is nearing the finish line, with a public hearing Monday the next big step.

In those four years, there has been plenty of back-and-forth between the city and Lansing residents, some of whom opposed the idea of entering Austin’s tax base. However, the annexation of 338 acres to the north of Austin was completed last year, and the city is getting ready to lay sewer piping soon, possibly as early as this July if everything goes smoothly.

That includes Monday’s public hearing, which will offer citizens an opportunity to raise concerns or questions about the project. One area that could raise the ire of some Lansing residents is the proposed process to assess the cost of the project — roughly $3.7 million — onto property owners, some of whom are already frustrated over their new, higher city property taxes.

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Originally, the idea was to keep taxes for annexed Lansing residents at basically the same level they had been at before. In 2006, that plan looked simple enough, as the tax rates of the two municipalities were only percentage points apart.

However, since then, Lansing’s tax rate plummeted, while Austin’s steadily increased. So, when annexed Lansing residents — who are paying city taxes for the first time this year — saw their 2010 estimates last December, some were quite alarmed.

“There are a lot of people out there pretty unhappy about this whole thing,” Roger Jennings, a Lansing resident who noticed a $600 spike, said at a December city tax hearing. “When will I see the difference (for the extra taxes)?”

The sewer system has the promise of being the difference Jennings referred to, which is why city officials are eager to move the project forward quickly. After Monday’s meeting, the next step will be to advertise for bids, then approve a low bid sometime next month. After that, another set of meetings will take place on the assessment process before shovels hit the ground.