Delaware County commissioners on Thursday took the unusual step of approving a sanitary sewer construction plan prior to the developer securing the necessary easements for downstream improvements necessary for the system to function properly.
Approval of the sanitary sewer construction plan will allow construction for phase two and three of The Reserves at Scioto Glenn development to move forward. Proof of easements dedicated to the county is normally required for the approval of a sanitary sewer construction plan.
However, Trey Giller, a representative of the developer, said M/I Homes is committed to making what they estimate to be $175,000 worth of off-site improvements.
The need to approve the construction plans ahead of securing the easements is two-fold, county officials say: to allow the project to begin this construction season and to get flow into the long-idled Lower Scioto Water Reclamation Facility before warranties on parts in the wastewater treatment plant expire.
“By our vote today we are going to make it very clear we are supportive of this project,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell.
Administrator Tim Hansley – who called the deal a “fairly unique situation” — said it will also add new customers and revenue to the county’s sewer system.
But county sanitary sewer engineer Tiffany Jenkins seemed to suggest that the deal sets a bad precedent.
“This is not a unique situation,” she said, before adding: “Don’t be surprised if you get more people asking for this.”
But Merrell said the expiring warranties at the wastewater treatment plan do indeed make the situation different.
“To try to put the others in the same bucket is probably inappropriate,” he said.
According to the legislation approved, “the risk to allowing the site to develop ahead of the downstream improvements is overloading the downstream system, causing surcharges, overflows and possible back-ups to existing customers.”
To mitigate the risk, Jenkins has recommended the county secure a performance bond or other approved financial warranty for the downstream improvements and does not approve the site improvements for public use until the downstream improvements are completed.
County officials say they are working on a tight deadline to get the Lower Scioto Water Reclamation Facility online before warranties begin to expire in 2017. Once the plant is operational, parts in the facility can be tested.
The county has already poured millions of dollars into the Lower Scioto Water Reclamation Facility.
Construction on the project began in 2007, shortly after a different set of commissioners created the Concord-Scioto Community Authority. The community authority took out bonds to pay for the construction of the $23 million plant. The authority was given thousands of sewer taps by the county to sell, with the proceeds to be used to pay off the bonds.
As development slowed with the recession, so too did sales of the taps, to the point that the community authority fell behind on its debt obligation.
The county spent about $14 million in 2013 to repurchase the taps given to the community authority so that it could make its bond payments. The deal also allowed the county to take control of the facility.