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Council is still undecided on sewer assessments

Carlton Thomson objects to the city's proposal that could put a sanitary sewer into a few new neighborhoods in northeast Austin because he doesn't like the property tax assessment the city is proposing.

"It's just a bad situation all the way around," said Thomson, who along with 71 other residents filed a written objection to the assessments. "It's a no-win situation."

Bruce Huffer thought the council was "trying to be fair and take everyone's point of view into consideration."

"The process has happened," said Huffer, who lives in the area. "I feel for the people that are being affected financially by this."

Huffer said he supports the project because the city's technology is superior to any other system. Residents would pay one time and not have to keep replacing the sewer. Huffer thinks that more should be done to help residents who have financial hardships.


Al Layman disagreed with the council's decision. He told the council during the meeting he thinks the city should adopt the plan without any changes.

Diane Jorgensen said she was disappointed a decision wasn't made Tuesday night.

The four people were among the many northeast Austin residents who were in the standing-room crowd for the Austin City Council meeting Tuesday night. After an hour of its own discussion and close to another hour of comments from residents, the council again chose to continue the assessment hearing for the sewer project in northeast Austin at its next meeting in two weeks.

The decision will give residents who want to withdraw their objections time to do so, but it will also put the city's back against the wall when it reconvenes the hearing at its July 19 meeting because the construction bids it got in spring expire in August.

Council members and city staff discussed dividing the project, giving the sanitary sewer only to residents who have not filed written objections, or making another feasibility study of the area for an entirely new project. No decision was made.

Testimony from residents took up much of the time. The first few residents spoke in favor of the project. They said they support it because it will resolve sewage issues in the area, which was annexed into the city by an order of the state in 2009 at a lower cost than replacing septic systems.

Austin Public Works Director Jon Erichson said the objections have increased since the last hearing on the matter. As of Tuesday night, the city had 72 written objections.The city would be looking at about $1.3 million if the objections were to go to court. The project would cost about $3.3 million, he said.

Mayor Tom Stiehm said during a special council work session that city officials are trying to avoid litigation. He said the rest of the city would pay for any judgment or settlement if any objections go to court and prevail, and would be paying to put a sewer into that area.

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