Two of the developers who have been working with the Oxford Area Sewer Authority on making more sewage capacity available have pulled out of the agreement.That means the remaining developers group and the authority will have to look at a smaller treatment plant and a different layout of areas to be served by new sewer lines.
The authority has been working with the group of local developers on a solution to make more sewage service available, by adding spray fields and a new treatment plant.
The plant would be built by the developers to serve their new subdivisions, but it would be larger than they need. The additional capacity would be used by the sewer authority to take care of other area needs.
With building slowing, two planned subdivisions have been put on hold, the Hearthstone subdivision in Lower Oxford and the DeCarlo subdivision in East Nottingham.
"Basically we service the existing system," authority board member Joe Scheese said. "If a developer wants to come in and put up 250 homes, he has to pay for that. He will add capacity and piping to make it possible to do that. If that project goes away, that pipe never gets laid and that's what is happening."
Current residents, like Nancy Shallcross of Barnsley, have been hoping for sewage to come near their homes so they can hook into the new lines.
"I thought that was the whole premise of how we were going to get things done in a timely fashion," she told the authority board.
Barnsley is still one of the areas that could be served by the lines to the remaining new developments, and the remaining group is still planning to build a treatment plant, but what size and design it will be now is uncertain.
Authority board member Frank Lobb pointed out that there could be more changes.
"There's no hard agreement that they have to participate," he said. "They just have said they would participate. I don't think any of us have a handle on how secure those promises of the developers are at this moment. Aside from that, there's some uncertainty with the mortgage market as to what you can build and sell."
Changes to the proposed new treatment plant will have to be added to the authority's new 537 plan that it has been trying to have approved by DEP for more than two years.
"We'd have to go back and amend what we have for them on file," authority Director Ed Lennex said. "I'm waiting for them to come back to me with what they're going to build."
On a positive note, even though operating expenses are expected to be 5.2 percent higher, Lennex has prepared the 2008-09 budget to be revenue-neutral so there will be no need to raise sewer rates this year.
News is not as good for anyone planning a new hook-up to the sewer system. Lennex is suggesting increasing the inspection fee for new connections from the present $35 to $200.
The higher rate is expected to cover the authority's actual costs, which are not being met at the current rate.