Timber Hills homeowners have problems with their sewers they want Lee’s Summit to solve.
They don’t understand how to run their private sewer system serving the 82-house subdivision east of Interstate 470 at the north end of the city.
Costs are rising and an adjacent neighborhood complains of odor problems since 2005.
The Timber Hills developer, now bankrupt, last year dumped the responsibility in homeowners’ laps.
Now the residents want the city to take over the system. But the request also raised questions of what to do with other private sewer systems in the city.
There are a few other areas with private systems, usually a couple of houses, but a commercial area at Market and Persels also has a private system. And the 23-house Amber Hills subdivision had sewer maintenance problems.
“Citizens don’t want to run a sewer district, we didn’t know we had it,” said Dan Boyer, a district board member from Timber Hills who spoke at a May 9 work session of the Lee’s Summit City Council.
He said the agreement for Community Improvement District was included on paperwork when residents purchased their homes, but most didn’t understand or read it.
The plans are for the city to take over operation of the system and allow the homeowners to dissolve the district.
The City Council gave tentative approval to the idea .
Timber Hills leaders will have to collect signatures from more than 50 percent of the owners and the council will have to vote on the issue again before the takeover. The council also agreed to study what to do about other areas.
Councilmember Bob Johnson voted no, after arguing that city needs to include other property owners in similar circumstances.
Amber Hills subdivision has had two noxious breaks causing sewage to bubble up and cause odors, he said.
“If we do it for one, we have to do it for everybody, that’s only fair,” Johnson said.
The Timber Hills situation began in 2003 when the city approved a private system at the request of the developer.
The system consists of pumps in homes that push waste water to a sewer main, and then pumped to larger city-owned main where it flows away by gravity. It includes a station where sewage is treated chemically to prevent odors. But the residents have had trouble operating it correctly.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with this, we don’t want to see neighborhoods in Ridgewood Hills suffer,” said Dave Ledgerwood, another district board member.
Each household is paying $360 a year for running the system, but that falls short of expenses of running the system.
A similar system is in use at Prairie Lee Lake, with homeowners there responsible for their individual pumps and lines but the city maintains the main line.
City staff estimates running the system for Timber Hills would cost about $8,400 annually. It has spent $31,000 on consultants fees and will need to spend $25,000 to upgrade the public system as part of the takeover.
Mark Schaufler, director of water utilities, recommended taking over the chemical station and main. Homeowners would still be responsible for maintaining individual pumps and lines from their houses to the main.
Councilmember Ed Cockrell said “fair” comes down to the specifics. In this instance the odors emerge from a public manhole, he noted.
“We have a responsibility to keep odor in and manage the hydrogen sulfide for air quality,” Cockrell said.
City Manger Steve Arbo told the council the Amber Hills situation was different because the breaks were in lines leading from the house to the private main.
Wayne Carter, a resident of Amber Hills subdivision who had a break at his home, said that’s not quite right.
Carter said that when he had the break in his yard repaired the plumber also found a crack in the main.
Carter had the plumber prepare separate bills for both jobs and paid them. He went to his neighbors for reimbursement for work on the sewer main.
Carter said that according to their deeds each homeowner is to share that cost equally.
The bill was $800, $35 each, he said.
Carter said some neighbors refused to reimburse him until he hired a lawyer to send them letters. “I got a few doors slammed in my face,” Carter said.
He said Amber Hills is working-class neighborhood and has been talking with city for creating its own district, but it’s been difficult to get 23 owners to agree.
He said if the city takes over sewers for Timber Hills it doesn’t seem fair to require his subdivision to create its own association.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Carter said. “It’s not that big a deal, there’s not a break every week or month, it just happens on a rare occasion. I can’t see where they’re taking on a big burden.”