Property owners affected by the Painter Road/Brooklyn Avenue and Depot Road sewer line extension project still voted in favor of going forward Monday, even with a higher possible cost.
"That's a go," Trustee Chairman Cliff Mix said after counting the votes.
A show of hands indicated 14 yes votes out of the 20 eligible property owners in attendance at the public hearing, with Mix noting they received a call from the owners of three properties who said they were for the project. With those three votes, plus another positive vote from another property owner who couldn't attend, the total vote out of 27 total eligible households was 18 votes in favor.
The majority in favor had to equal at least 51 percent of the possible households, with one vote alloted per property.
At least 35 or more people crowded into the meeting room at the township administration building off of North Ellsworth Avenue for the hearing trustees decided to host to make sure residents still favored the project. The cost had gone up since they last discussed the situation with residents.
Mix said the cost to property owners was now estimated at $7,327 per property, with the higher cost attributed to a contingency figure for cost overruns and a legal figure in case of a need for legal fees. He said both of those fees were built into the cost just in case, meaning they could be subtracted out if they end up not being necessary.
If those fees are knocked out, the cost to a property owner could be lower; he estimated at just under $6,000.
The bid price for the township project being handled by the Columbiana County Engineer's Office was $245,838, but the total cost has been estimated at $282,838 after adding in the contingency, administration fee and legal fee. The contingency was $25,000, the legal fee $10,000 and the adminstration fee $1,000.
One property owner in the audience held up a previous news article about the costs and noted that he was all for the project when it all started, but the price keeps going up and up and up. He asked if the price was going to change again a month from now, comparing it to his Time Warner cable bill.
"I just would like a straight answer," he said.
Mix told him the price given was the price that he knew and that the total was based on the bid and the contingency and legal fees. He again said the final cost would depend on those fees and whether they ended up even needing the contingency fund for the project.
The property owners were reminded that the cost they can have placed on their property taxes as an assessment does not include the tap fee to tap into the system or the cost of installing a service line from their residence to the road.
Salem Utilities Commission Chairman Geoff Goll attended the hearing and explained that once the project is completed, there will be a 60-day period when property owners can pay the assessment in full without it going on their taxes. Once it's placed on their tax duplicate, he said there will be 5 percent interest charge over the 15-year repayment period. They'll pay toward the assessment on their tax bills, which come out twice a year.
Since taxes are collected a year behind, the assessment would not actually appear on tax bills received by residents until 2014 if the project is completed this year and the assessment is placed on the tax duplicate this year.
Residents in those areas petitioned township trustees for sewer service several years ago and the trustees asked the county Engineer's Office to handle the project. The cost was originally estimated at $199,000, but when bids came in too high, the project went into limbo and was eventually rebid with a higher cost estimate.
Trustees are contributing $84,000 toward the cost from Ohio Public Works money. Since the city will own the line and be providing the service, the Salem Utilities Commission agreed to loan the money for the difference up front and have the residents pay their portion of the construction cost through the assessment.
Residents will receive a monthly bill from the city for sewer service, which is separate from the assessment and will be based on usage.
Goll said that in the state of Ohio, there are only one or two other entities with cheaper sewer and water rates than Salem.
"We've kept the rates as low as we can," he said.
Mix thanked Goll for giving them his time by attending the hearing and providing the information about the assessment.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org