Residents along Ridge Road in Chadds Ford Township are facing the highest sewer tapping fee to date. Total cost estimates bring the connection fee to nearly $16,000 -- $4,000 more than originally established when work was to begin two years ago.

Though the township sewer authority has not yet set the actual tapping fee for phase two of the Ridge Road sewer extension project, it is estimating the figure to be about $15,894.

That figure could change, but Vince Del Rossi, Sewer Authority Chairman said he thinks that estimate is close to the final figure.

"I hope it's less," Del Rossi said, "but fifteen-eight sounds about right."

The tapping fee estimate is based on a construction cost of $397,000 -- the letting price for the bid -- plus another $207,000 in contingency, engineering and design costs. Also included in the fee is $1,700 for capacity at the treatment plant.

Additionally, sewer customers must also pay a plumber to connect their homes to the sewer lines and another $145 inspection fee to the township.

Those numbers total $604,000, which is then divided by the number of new users for the $15,894 figure.

This phase of the Ridge Road sewer extension runs from the vicinity of St. Cornelius Church, and the Ravens Crest development to Heyburn Road and will bring in 38 more users to the Ridings Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Work on this current phase began Feb. 1 and will finish in April or May, Del Rossi said. The authority will have a better idea what the actual fee should be once the project nears conclusion.

The estimate is the highest for a tapping fee levied on Chadds Ford sewer users so far. Previous fees were $11,900 for the Longview/Summit project and $10,900 for the first phase of the Ridge Road extension.

Paul Linsen, vice chairman of the sewer authority added that the tapping fee for future residents of the Toll Bros. development at Camp Sunset Hill is paltry by comparison.

"Toll home owners will pay an imputed tapping fee of about $5,000," Linsen said.

He explained that the deal negotiated for the construction of a sewer plant at Turners Mill for the Toll development, and the Route 1 corridor has the township reimbursing Toll Bros. the cost of the project, minus about $600,000 in tapping fee costs for the 120 homes in the development.

The tapping fee for those homes could be higher if the costs for that project exceed the current estimate.

Increased costs are one reason for the higher tapping fee of the current Ridge Road project.

The authority was set to begin phase two in 2004, but litigation brought by the Ravens Crest Homeowners Association delayed the project.

Supervisor Garry Paul, the supervisors' liaison to the sewer authority, said that two-year delay led to "dramatically" higher project costs. He said the original construction cost was roughly $180,000, not the current $397,000.

The tapping fee for phase two was to have been the same as phase one.

An informal survey of neighboring townships conducted by the Chadds Ford Post in September 2004 showed that Chadds Ford Township tapping fees and monthly sewer-user fees are the highest in the readership area.

As reported in the Sept. 2-9, 2004 issue of the Chadds Ford Post, the last tapping fee in Birmingham Township at the time was $5,100.

Monthly user fees are also higher in Chadds Ford. Sewer customers using the Ridings Wastewater Treatment Plant pay $70 per month, or $210 per quarter. That is the same amount they were paying in 2004 when Birmingham Township public sewer customers were paying $108 per quarter and users in Concord Township were paying $115 per quarter.

Paul said one of the reasons Chadds Ford Township tapping fees are high is that the township is more spread out than the other municipalities. "When homes are closer together," he said, "the cost is less."

Connections are mandatory when a property's main building is within 150 feet of public sewer line. Property owners have 60 days in which to connect after the township notifies them that the line is ready to be used. The fee is to be paid in full at the time of connection.

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