The city of Lebanon is lifting the moratorium on new sewer connections it had imposed earlier this summer.

The city was not allowing new connections to the Westside Interceptor in the area south of Walker Road and to the east. The city’s sewer system has more than enough capacity to handle the demands of local residences and businesses, but the city imposed the restriction after learning it could be subject to fines if the runoff created by a storm led to overflows of the sewage system.

At its regular session Wednesday night, interim City Manager Ron Whitlatch, who is also the city’s Engineering Services Director, told the council that after reviewing the situation, he believes the ban on new connections should be lifted.

He said the city is preparing to move forward with an expansion of the Westside Interceptor, which will add capacity along Airway Road south to Walker Road and the going east to Stoltz Hill Road. This limited expansion will cost about $9 million and Whitlatch is confident that funding for this work is solidly in place.

A larger expansion would extend the system further south to the intersection of South Main Road and Crowfoot Road. This would cost roughly double the smaller expansion.

Whitlatch said it would take several months for any new residential construction to connect to the system and a year or more for any larger projects to connect. In the meantime, the city will be working to increase its capacity.

Whitlatch said his team is also working to minimize the inflows of stormwater into the sewer system, including camera and smoke inspections of the lines to find the most significant sources of inflow, as well as rehabbing manhole covers to limit inflow.

With these efforts in mind, Whitlatch recommended the city begin issuing permits to construction in this area and allow new connections the system.

“There is a little risk in that … if we did have a major overflow, we would be fined, but the reality is if we had a major overflow right now we’d be fined,” Whitlatch said. “If you think about residential sewer, it does not add a lot to your system, but just keep in mind there is that potential should that happen.”

Councilor Wayne Rieskamp noted that the city had experienced overflows in the past.

Whitlatch said that was correct and the last event occurred in 2008.

Council Rebecca Grizzle made the motion that the city lift the permitting moratorium. The motion was seconded by Rieskamp, and the vote was unanimous, with councilors Jason Bolen, Robert Furlow, Karin Stauder and Michelle Steinhebel all in favor.

The council also revised its ordinance governing the hours of operation of local marijuana dispensaries. The previous ordinance required shops to close at 8 p.m. The revision, which was requested by Lebanon’s dispensary owners, allows the shops to remain open until 10 p.m.

“I don’t see a negative. It’s two more hours. It’s not until two in the morning,” said Stauder.

Lebanon Police Chief Frank Stevenson said he had no issues with the expanded hours.

The revised ordinance was unanimously approved.

As its last item of business Wednesday, the council approved the severance agreement drafted by city attorney Tre Kennedy following the resignation of former City Manager Gary Marks.

Kennedy said the severance agreement is not a negotiation but simply puts in writing the terms of separation required by Marks’ contract. Under the agreement Marks will receive $96,470.01, which is equivalent to six months of salary and medical/dental benefits as called for in the contract.

The council unanimously approved the agreement.

After the session was concluded Mayor Paul Aziz was asked when the city would begin the process of hiring a new city manager. Aziz said the expectation is that this matter will be on the agenda at the Oct. 9 regular session.

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