Council debates private sewer issue

City staff has answered some of the many questions surrounding a private sewer line underneath Franklin Street, but many still remain.
City Administrator Rick Childers told the Richmond City Council last night that part of the line has been repaired, and a private company was called out to unclog a portion of the line and ran a camera system through it.
Childers said the camera found two connections, but a kink in the line prohibited them from going further up the line. Childers guessed that the line might be more than 50 years old.
Childers said there are other private sewer lines in the city, but this is the only one so far that has been discovered under a city street.
the city takes responsibility for replacing that line,” Childers said. “We can go out and replace it, that’s no problem. The problem is paying for it.”
Childers said he couldn’t give an estimate of what the project would cost, but said he expected engineering for the project to be between $5,000 and $10,000. Material costs are less than a $1,000, according to Childers, but the real expense would be replacing the street.
Childers said the only other way to pay for it is to approach property owners about forming a benefit district. He said the district would have to decide to direct the city to make the repairs and then bill them on their taxes, but he said that’s up to them.
“It’s not something we can create without the approval of the property owners,” he said.
Councilwoman Beverly Gorham said she doesn’t think it’s fair to tell property owners it’s their responsibility.
“I know our budget is in a crunch now but I have a real problem with telling property owners that thought they were hooked onto a city sewer system that, ‘Hey it’s your responsibility.’”
Councilwoman Melissa Miller said the city could be opening themselves up to further expenses in the future.
“I don’t want to make a bunch of promises to people in the area and say we are going to adopt this, and then the price to do it isn’t something we can fit into our budget,” Miller said.
Mayor Lance Green said even if the property owners agreed, the city still has to come up with the cash.
“Even putting it on their taxes we would have to pay for it up front,” Green said.
Staff will try and determine an estimate by the next council meeting.
Several other items were discussed during the meeting. The Daily News will have follow-up stories in the coming days.

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