May 11, 2012Kirkwood homeowners with root-choked sewer lines will get a break as the city now will pick up 75 percent of the cost for approved repair projects, up from the previous 60 percent.
The difference would save a homeowner $450 on what the city, on its website, calls the typical ($3,000) price of a repair to a residential sewer lateral. Under the new formula, the homeowner's share of the typical project would drop from $1,200 to $750.
The program, called the Sewer Lateral Insurance Program, has paid out nearly $950,000 in benefits since 2008, according to a memorandum from Public Works Director Todd Rehg to Chief Administrative Officer Mike Brown. However, the city's income from the program in each of those five years handsomely exceeded the benefit payout, resulting in a growing fund balance that now exceeds $650,000, the memorandum stated.
Brown, therefore, suggested to the city council that the program's coverage be raised to 75 percent from 60 percent. The council did so at its May 3 meeting by a 7-0 vote.
The program, launched with voter approval in June 1999, has not always operated in the black, according to Mayor Art McDonnell. A lot of homeowners who had deferred sewer repairs got busy when they found that a city subsidy was available.
"We had a great number of (applications) at first, and we were deficit spending in the program for quite a while," said McDonnell. "Now we've caught up on a lot of the repairs. They do come in, but not such a big flood as we had before."
The program "is not designed to develop a huge reserve," McDonnell said. "The experience we've had over the past few years has convinced (Rehg) that we are in a good position to make this change and not be in a deficit situation."
The program is funded from a $28 charged added to residents' property tax bills, according to Rehg. He said it has helped 889 Kirkwood homeowners fix their sewer lines.
Before approving a project for the program, the city requires a sewer line be video inspected and cabled to remove any temporary obstruction. The homeowner posts a $400 deposit against the cost of this work; any money left over is refunded. Upon approval of the project, the homeowner seeks three estimates from a list of approved contractors, awarding the work to the low bidder. After completion of the work, the homeowner submits the bill, proof of authorization for the program and lien waivers to the city to collect the insurance payment.
Only the portion of a residential sewer line lying between the foundation and the Metropolitan Sewer District line is covered (including the connection). Single and multi-family dwellings up to six units are eligible.
Full details are available at www.kirkwoodmo.org/content/CityDepartments/1919/sewer-lateral.aspx.
"It's been a terrific thing, and it's helped a lot of homeowners save some money," McDonnell said.