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Pump station upgrade in Hebron could be just what's needed to spur more development in Boone County

Sanitation district could foot part of the bill
Pump station upgrade in Hebron could be just what's needed to spur more development in Boone County
Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 05, 2016

HEBRON, Ky. -- Homebuilding in Hebron could get a much-needed boost if the Boone County Commissioners finalize an unusual $6 million loan to Sanitation District No. 1 to upgrade the Sand Run Pump Station.

That financing, along with a little more than $3 million from SD1, would bring about 2,700 lots for homes and about the equivalent of 300 lots for commercial use on board. Developers, as well as commissioners, are eager to see the financing approved. And, if all goes as planned, developers could start building infrastructure for streets and utilities as early as the end of the year.

That's what Michael Conklin, Drees Northern Kentucky division president, is hoping for. Drees already has development plans approved for its Thornwilde community, said Conklin. They own 200-plus lots in the Hebron area that are affected by the pump station.

"We are down to just a few lots in the current sections so new lots in calendar year 2017 will be truly beneficial to not only the Drees company but for Hebron as well," Conklin said.

Without the loan and ultimate upgrade, development could stall in Hebron, risking a homebuilding moratorium, said Boone County Judge Executive Gary Moore.

"We have school capacity, a new road," said Moore. "There's a new library coming next year. The area is planned. ... This was the missing piece."

SD1 can't foot the whole bill because their budget also has to address existing overflow issues in the urban areas as required by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Gary Stacy, director of infrastructure capital planning at SD1.      

Originally, SD1 was was going to request that developers prepay for taps to pay for the upgrade. The loan will no longer make that an issue, said Moore.

Moore expects commissioners to OK the loan at their Nov. 15 meeting.

"I believe (the commissioners) share my position that allowing Hebron to come to a halt with new homes would not be good," he said.

Moore stressed that the money "is a loan, not a gift. We expect to be paid back."

Taxpayers won't foot the bill, he said. The loan, which will come from the county reserves, will be repaid by tap fees, paid by the developer for each structure that connects to the sewer system.

The fees, which are $3,400 per tap, will go into a separate account to repay Boone County, said Moore. The loan, with interest, should be repaid before the development is built out, he added. "About 1,800 homes will pay it off," he said.

Moore said Boone County previously did a "pilot project" with the water district where they prepaid pipes and leased them to the district. The loan is different, but they continue to look at ways to be creative, he said.

The Sand Run project includes increasing the capacity of the pumps as well as adding larger lines into the system that feeds into Sand Run. Pump stations are needed in Northern Kentucky because of the hilly terrain, said Stacy.  The stations push sewage to the processing plants when gravity doesn't work. SD1 currently owns and maintains 117 pump stations.

Brian Miller, executive vice president for Home Builders of Northern Kentucky, said growth is the only way that SD1 can solve the problems systemwide.

A lot depends on the EPA and the consent decree to deal with aging infrastructure in the urban core, Miller said. "What we're trying to do it trying to balance between taking care of a human health issue (in the older urban areas) and at the same time provide expansion to bring in new rate payers."

Miller said there needs to be more planning in place for sewer capacity. He said pump upgrades aren't planning far enough out for what he sees as continued home and commercial growth in Boone County.

Once the county approves the loan, SD1 will need to approve the loan agreement, said Stacy. Developers can start requesting a reservation of capacity. SD1 will make sure that homes don't come online until the upgrade is complete, likely spring 2019.

SD1 is also adding pumping capacity at the Richwood Pump Station for about $2.3 million, said Stacy. Most of the need in that area is for commercial and industrial.