The Chadds Ford Sewer Authority delayed announcing a tapping fee for phase two of the Ridge Road sewer extension project, but did agree to refinance a 10-year-old loan during the April 18 meeting.
Members also heard from about a dozen township residents who expressed concerns over high tapping fees and quarterly user fees for sewer use. Some of them were among those who were first to connect to the sewer system following the Longview/Summit project in early 2002.
Carol Carter, of Summit Drive, said she's concerned about how the township goes about approaching sewer projects, especially the seemingly piecemeal approach and with the varying tapping fees from project to project. She also expressed displeasure with the high user fee for sewer service.
"I'm fed up with the $210 quarterly fee. Most of us are retired [and on fixed incomes]. I feel like I'm flushing $210 down the drain," she said.
She added that she thought it was wrong to start with her neighborhood when there were other areas with a greater need of public sewers.
"The village needed sewers before us. ...No one investigated our home to see if we had septic problems."
Carter said she had recently paid to upgrade her septic system before the project started, then had to pay a tapping fee of $12,000.
Rodger Bailey, also of Summit Drive echoed much of Carter's comments. He said cost of living keeps rising but his income now is the same as it was when he retired 16 years ago.
"The reason we're here tonight is to stop the piecemeal approach," he said, then added, "$70 a month is too much. I'm pretty close to not paying it."
Anne Pounds, of Longview Road, suggested a sewer tax so that everyone would pay into the system the same way everyone pays for the roads.
"We can't be a little country village anymore," said Pounds.
Other residents who will connect as part of the second phase of the Ridge Road project didn't get to know what they will have to pay to connect because authority members need more time to understand the ramifications and applications of Act 57, a law signed in 2003 that changes the way in which tapping fees are calculated.
Authority Chairman Vince Del Rossi said there will be a special meeting "within a week or week-and-a-half" in which the fee will be announced. "We need more discussions."
This phase of the Ridge Road project is the first sewer project the township has undertaken since Act 57 was enacted. It still uses capacity and construction costs in the calculation, as the previous method did, but alters the capacity cost by a per capita calculation and also allows costs of a previous project to be included in an extension project.
Del Rossi said authority members met non-publicly on March 30 and again on April 17 to review Act 57 and the calculations. Members also met behind closed doors prior to the beginning of the April 18 public meeting.
"We thought we knew how to calculate fees, but we're still trying to figure that out," said member Marc Altman.
"Most of you probably came thinking we'd have more on tapping fees," said Vice Chairman Paul Linsen. "There are different ways to calculate [the fee]. It used to be simple but now it's more complex. We are seeking advice from our solicitor and engineer."
The fee will have to be announced soon. Construction work on the project is supposed to be finished in May. Once the lines are tested and deemed fit for use, notices will go out to the new users that they have 60 days in which to connect.
The authority is continuing to take action to unburden itself from a ten-year-old loan carrying a 6 percent interest rate by refinancing with one carrying a rate of about 4.3 percent and no prepayment penalty.
They will borrow up to $1 million to pay down the remaining $880,000 on a 1996 loan of $1,050,000.
The old loan carried an interest of 6 percent plus administrative fees, and didn't allow any prepayment of principle within the first ten years. The new loan has an interest rate close to 4 percent with no prepayment penalties or administrative fees.
According to authority treasurer Keith Klaver, the refinancing will save $50,000 to $100,000 over the next 10 years.
He said this benefits sewer users. "Expenses we don't incur, the users don't incur," said Klaver.