Design plans nearing completion for Route 50 sewer project

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Design plans for the Route 50W sanitary sewer project are expected to be completed by May 24, and Athens County officials are now aiming to put the project out to bid in July.

The Athens County Commissioners discussed the project Tuesday with the project’s engineer and its attorney, and with Athens County Water and Sewer District Supt. Rich Kasler. Among the topics discussed was when to hold the next public meeting to update residents.

The project, currently estimated to cost $28.8 million, will provide sanitary sewer service to the residential subdivisions west of Athens and to nearby areas. It’s considered an environmental project and will do away with individual septic tanks in the project area. The work will be funded by a combination of U.S. Department of Agriculture loan and grant funds, with sewer bills used to repay the loan.

Kasler reported that the final project design should be completed by the end of next week. The plans will be posted on the project’s website. The 90 percent completed plans can be found under the “site work” link.

Commissioner Chris Chmiel brought up the topic of holding another public meeting.

“… It seems like there’s a lot of people that want to be updated, and people don’t always seem to read the paper,” Chmiel said, referring to The Messenger’s detailed coverage of the project over the past few years.

A discussion then ensued on when would be the best time to hold a meeting, with Kasler suggesting that it not be done right before project goes to bid.

“I think that would would just create more drama and problems right at the ending when we really can’t afford to change anything right as we go to bid,” Kasler said, suggesting that additional information be put on the website with the project plans and a phone number that people with questions can call.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason said a public meeting should be held when construction is about to start, because at that point more information will be available to give to residents. The other commissioners agreed.

In the meantime, a card or letter will be sent out referring residents to the website and updated information after the final design is done, the commissioners decided.

Project attorney Frank Lavelle noted that of the approximate 1,100 properties to be served by the sewer system, easements were needed for only about 230 and those property owners were contacted by land agents. He said other property owners might be wondering why they have not been contacted, but it’s because easements were not needed.

As the project gets closer to actually happening, some people are wondering what it will cost them to have a lateral line installed to hook into the new sewer system.

The actual cost for each individual property owner isn’t known. It will depend on the distance from the sewer line and the depth of the lateral.

“We’re going to bid a bulk connection to give people an option and try to save them some money,” Eliason said. People will still be able to select a different contractor if they want.

In March, the commissioners approved a request from property owners to relocate a proposed sewer line in the Highland Park subdivision from the roadway to behind four houses on Estates Drive and one on Pine Lane. It will require four easements. Eliason said if those easements are not received by this coming Monday, there will be a vote to revert back to the original plan.