Pataskala residents living in The Oaks subdivision will not have to pay capacity fees, Pataskala City Council agreed last week.

Pataskala residents living in The Oaks subdivision will not have to pay capacity fees, Pataskala City Council agreed last week.

How the loss of funding will affect future improvements to the city sanitary sewer system remains unclear, city administrator Timothy Boland said.

The city is in the process of upgrading its wastewater treatment plant. The capacity fees, typically charged when new users are added to the system, would pay for improvements, maintenance and any additional capacity.

Boland said that because the city already is upgrading the system and could handle the additional capacity, it is unclear how the loss of the capacity fees might affect the city.

"I think 36 was the last estimate (of homes to connect to the system)," Boland said. "But that number has yet to be determined."

The city is extending a sanitary sewer system to the subdivision as mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). The OEPA mandated the project following a 2005 complaint of failing sewer systems within The Oaks.

The sewer system must be installed in The Oaks within five years. Construction is expected to cost $397,000. The city is paying 2 percent of the cost but is assessing the property owners for the balance. The assessments are being estimated at $13,910 to $14,920. Those assessments may be included with property taxes to spread the payments out over time. But the residents also were being asked to pay a $3,150 capacity fee to hook to the system. That could not be included in the assessment, residents learned during previous meetings.

Residents several times requested that the city waive the capacity fees.

Matt Anderson of Hickory Lane told Pataskala City Council on Oct. 5 that the capacity fee is too high for young families. Thomas Kipp, who represented the property owners during the Oct. 12 meeting on the project, told council the city, the Licking County Health Department and the OEPA have been negligent for the past 15 years in not providing sewer to the residents. He said previous sewer projects had been planned to provide sewer to residents but none was completed.

As for council's decision to waive the fees, "I think it was just a combination of things," council president Barbara Triplett said.

She said council had been presented with history on the project, which showed it would have been less expensive to have the sewer installed some years earlier.

"It looked like through the years the area had been overlooked," she said. "Had they been able to get the project done sooner, it would have been a lot cheaper."

She said that given the current economic times, the project cost seemed too much to bear.

"I think it was a way of meeting them halfway," she said.

lwince@thisweeknews.com