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LEBANON — The Lebanon City Council has unanimously approved a proposal to expand the city’s sanitary sewer system.

But the project's size and potential cost are still to be determined.

Ron Whitlatch, the engineering services director for the city of Lebanon, told the council during its Wednesday night session that for much of the city, the current sewer system is deficient.

During dry weather it functions properly and there is even some additional capacity. But during periods of heavy rainfall, the system cannot keep up with the combined demands of the storm runoff and the sanitary sewer needs. This can lead to overflows, which are prohibited by the state Department of Environmental Quality unless caused by storms considered to be bigger than a once-every-five-years event.

The deficient area includes all of the city east of Highway 20 south of the intersection with Airport Drive. It also includes much of the city south of Walker Road and east of Sixth Street.

The sewer system’s performance meets expectations on the western edge of the city and north of Airport Drive.

By law, the city is not allowed to approve new applications for development in areas that are served by the over-capacity system. The city can approve permits for existing structures and it will also approve new connections in situations where a septic system has failed.

The city has been working to address this issue through construction of the Westside Interceptor, which has increased the system’s capacity. The question for the council was how to proceed with the next phase of the Westside Interceptor expansion.

Whitlatch presented two options. The first is a limited expansion of the system, which would extend the Westside Interceptor from its current end point at the intersection of Oak Street and Airway Road. The extension would proceed south on Airway Road to Walker Road, and then extend east along Walker Road to Stoltz Hill Road.

This would cost an estimated $9 million, with $3.5 million coming from city funds that have been set aside for this purpose. The remainder would be funded by a loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. To receive funding in the coming fiscal year, a loan application would have to be submitted in August. Construction would likely begin in spring 2020 and take approximately one year to complete.

The second option is a larger expansion which includes all of option 1 and continues south to the intersection of South Main Street and Crowfoot Road. An early estimate of the cost for this option is $18 million.

Whitlatch said he believes the Department of Environmental Quality would support the city’s application for a $14 million loan from the state revolving fund. If approved, work would begin in spring 2020 and likely take two years to complete.

The advantage of the larger expansion is that, when completed, it would allow the city to accept new development applications for a much larger area.

Councilor Karin Stauder said she would prefer to pursue the bigger project first, knowing that if problems arise, the city has the ability to scale back its plans. Whitlatch confirmed that the city did have this option. He said that even if the application is made and the state approves the larger loan, the city would still be able to make a separate decision at that time on whether to accept it.

Councilor Rebecca Grizzle agreed with Stauder, and when the matter went to a vote, it was approved 4-0, with additional support from Wayne Rieskamp and Robert Furlow. Councilors Jason Bolen and Michelle Steinhebel were not in attendance.

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