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Toledo nearing sewer plant construction while council amends hookup fees

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The City of Toledo is close to going out to bid for their new sewer plant, according to reports during the Jan. 21 Toledo City Council Meeting.

The approximately $9.6 million oxidation ditch plant, designed by Gray & Osborne, is intended to replace the city's existing lagoon system and is expected to increase the capacity for hookups as well as comply more readily with Department of Ecology standards.

City Clerk Michelle Whitten said it is Toledo's intent to invite potential bidders to tour the current plant Feb. 4 for a pre-bid walkthrough, and for a solicitation of bids to be published at the end of next month.

“The plan is to open bids on Thursday, Feb. 20, at this point,” she told the council, who will be charged with selecting the lowest, responsible bidder for the project, likely during a meeting in March.

Funding for the upgrade is expected to come primarily from $6.4 million in various public works grants awarded to the city last year, from both the state and Lewis County. The remainder of total costs, which will not be known until the project is completed in 2015, is expected to be covered by an up-to $9.1 million Public Works Trust Fund Loan, around $900,000 of which has already been used to pay for engineering of the new plant.

In anticipation of the added costs of paying back the loan, as well as bolstering their ability to qualify for grant funding, council members have increased sewer rates by $35 per month gradually since 2011, and it was stated in November additional increases related to the project are not expected at this point.

In other utility news, the council also passed an ordinance allowing landowners a break on their utility hookup fees if their property had previously been hooked into system but was voluntarily disconnected.

The new ordinance, which was given an interim status and will expire June 30, allows such landowners to pay the hookup fee which would have applied at the time the sewer/water services were disconnected rather than the current rate of $9,000.

The ordinance had been drafted in response to a request from resident Kipp Coverdell, who had approached the council Nov. 18 regarding an outbuilding on his property he was attempting to convert into a residence. The previous owners had used the building as a residence until 1992 when they cancelled the water/sewer service, and Coverdell had been informed by the city he would need to pay the current hookup fee before renting out the property.

Coverdell said this was an expense he had not expected or been ready to absorb on top of what it had already cost to renovate the structure and asked the council for relief. Due to restrictions against gifting of city funds, the hookup fee could not simply be waived and the council drafted their interim ordinance as a compromise.

The new regulations apply to all landowners, not just Coverdell, and Whitten said she is aware of other properties in the city that could possibly be affected by the ordinance, adding the owners have yet to approach the city with concerns in such regards.

“We’ll have to look at each individual case,” she said.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. in City Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 854-4564.

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