Lansing project could start next week

Published 7:23 am Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shovels should be in the ground next week in the Lansing area as a new sewer project comes through despite lingering controversy.

On Monday night, the Austin City Council approved three separate bids, which together will cover the scope of the work and bring sewer lines to 209 residential units. Overall, the three bids are worth roughly $2.5 million out of an approximately $3 million project, with the remaining costs going to the planning and administration of the sewer plan.

Because that price tag is being assessed completely on area residents — to the tune of roughly $16,000 per residential unit — many have voiced opposition to the project. Reasons for criticism have varied, with some simply saying they can’t afford the assessments and others saying they have working septic systems and shouldn’t have to subsidize a new sewer.

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Perhaps no meeting was more contentious than the one on July 19, when council voted to approve the project. Afterward, those citizens most vehemently opposed said they would pursue legal options in district court, which is allowable in a case like this. A judge would then ultimately decide whether an assessment amount is fair.

“We will file a class action suit,” area resident Bob Allen said during that meeting.

However, not to be completely out-voiced by those protesting the project, a number of Lansing-area residents — particularly those living in the Woodhaven neighborhood — said they were happy to see sewer on its way.

“I’m very thankful for the vote,” resident Dan Franklin said after the meeting. “I’m thankful for all the hard work. We want to start protecting our environment.”

Franklin and others worked for a number of years to get some type of sewer installed in the area, as several homes have continually discharged waste into the Cedar River, which is now ranked among the five most polluted rivers in the country.

Eventually, the solution was for the Lansing area to get annexed into the city with the promise that city-provided sewer would follow.

Now, that promise is becoming reality. But with the project being slowed down by all the opposition, the goal of finishing work in 2010 may be unattainable, city engineer Jon Erichson said.

“We’ll need really good weather,” he said Monday.