A solution to the city's sewer crisis is emerging at City Hall.
On Tuesday, City staff members will present the city commissioners with a plan of more than $3 million worth of sewer system improvements that would allow restrictions on proposed developments in the city's northwest area to be removed immediately.
The plan emerged after city staff members and key players in the development and engineering sector of the community met after a March 31 "sewer summit."
The plan is leaving some builders and developers who have been critical of the city's response to the sewer situation feeling optimistic.
"This is fantastic news," Phil Struble, president of Landplan Engineering, said of the plan. "It is not just good; it is really, really good."
"I have not seen all the details of the plan, but I can say I'm very happy with the responses we are getting from City Hall," said Tim Stultz, a local builder who has been unable to get building permits for a northwest apartment project and eventually had to lay off two employees because of it. "We're getting a very genuine effort from City Hall. I think they understand our urgency now."
City staff members haven't determined whether the projects would require increased sewer rates. Some of the projects will be paid for by developers, while others will be paid for by the city.
But if the current sewer rates aren't found to be enough to cover the cost of the improvements, Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun said staff would consider the feasibility of delaying other unrelated sewer projects to avoid a rate increase.
"That will be something we look at very hard," Van Saun said.
More and bigger pumps
Details of the proposal include:
¢ Plans to build a pump station more than double the size of the pump station northwest of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. The $150,000 improvement likely would be paid for partially by the city and partially by developers who would hook developments onto the project. The improvements could be completed in six months.
¢ Plans to enlarge a pump station west of Sixth Street and Queens Road. The $150,000 improvement would be paid for by developers who would be served by the station. Six months is the estimated completion date for the project.
¢ Plans to improve a pump station near Free State High School. The station could serve the much-discussed Bauer Farm proposal that would create a "New Urbanism"-style retail and housing neighborhood near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. Cost estimates and timelines will be developed after an engineering study that is due next month determines how large the station needs to be. The city and developers will explore sharing the costs of the improvements.
¢ Plans to enlarge two sewer lines near Lake Alvamar in west Lawrence. The two lines would cost about $2.5 million to replace, and the city would pay for the project. City leaders long have planned to enlarge the pipes, but had scheduled the project for as far in the future as 2010 and 2025. The project likely would take 18 to 24 months to complete.
¢ Plans to build a new pump station north of Sixth Street near the Kansas Turnpike. The new pump station could be one of the larger projects in the plan, but cost estimates haven't been created yet. Estimates are expected to be part of a consultant's report due in May. The cost of the project would be financed by the city but would be paid for by developers as new developments that use the station are built.
'Genuine' to policy
Interim City Manager David Corliss, who was an architect of the plan, said all projects with conditions restricting their ability to get a building permit until sewer questions are answered would have those conditions immediately removed if city commissioners approve his recommendations Tuesday.
Corliss said he thought the plan was a just one because it sought to split many of the costs between the development community and the city.
"It's genuine to our development policy in terms of who pays for what improvements," Corliss said. "But it also recognizes that a number of developers have made commitments in this northwest area to grow our community."
He said developments would be allowed to move forward before all the work on the proposed sewer improvements was complete because it would take several months for the developments - everything from new homes to commercial centers - to be constructed.
City commissioners were still reviewing details of the plan Friday.
"What I can tell you is that I'm really pleased with the amount of work that staff has put in on this," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "I haven't gone through all the details yet, but we will give it a good, hard look."