$14 million project will upgrade sewer

Bass Lake residents and business will pay for the improvements through assessments

editor@sierrastar.comOctober 1, 2013 

Residents and businesses at Bass Lake will be pay more than $12 million for significant improvements to the community's sewer system that was first constructed in 1974, and has been out of compliance with state regulators for about 11 years.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board presented Madera County with a notice of violation for the system's treated wastewater disposal sprayfields at Chepo Saddle, just west of the lake. Non-compliance with state requirements can lead to monetary penalties for each daily occurrence.

A report outlining the improvements needed to correct existing deficiencies in the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater, was completed by West Yost Associates (Fresno and Davis offices) in February 2013 and approved by the Madera County Board of Supervisors on March 26.

Some of the 22 improvements that will be made to the system include a new pump station, new storage pond, a system to recirculate effluent runoff and prevent it from entering into any seasonal creeks, restoration of sprayfield irrigation lines, valves and sprinklers, and replacement of pumps at 10 lift stations around the lake.

Bass Lake residents and businesses received ballots in September from the county with 85% of respondents (709 to 125) voting in favor of the assessment. An annual $60 per sewer unit depreciation fund was approved by 67% (553 to 270). That fee is in addition to the annual operation and maintenance fee per sewer unit, currently at $375.

More than 1,800 residential and commercial sewer unit users will be assessed $6,694 per unit if paid up front by March 28, 2014, or an estimated $7,740 (actual cost per sewer unit will be established once bonds have been sold), if paid over 20 years through bonds.

Mail-in and and walk-on ballots were opened and counted during a public hearing at the Madera County Government Building on Sept. 10. Sewer unit owners agreed by ballot to the sewer improvement assessment which can either be paid up front (pre-payment) by March 28, 2014, or paid over 20 years through a bond. The 20-year bond option will add $2 million to the overall bond costs.

Bonded assessments would include $1.5 million to the U.S. Forest Service, $1.36 million to Kyu Sun and Sun Wha Choe, owners of the 84 Pines Chalets and Ducey's on the Lake in the Pines Village. Greenlaw Partners, owner-operator of the Pines Entertainment Center, Pines Market, Pines Bar, Shell gas station and other business in the Pines Village that lease space) will pay $542,000, Worldmark The Club, the time-share property at the west end of the lake, will pay more than $400,000, Madera County will be responsible for about $330,000, and Pacific Gas & Electric will kick-in $286,000.

Other multi sewer unit assessments will go to the Bass Lake School District ($85,000), and the Little Church in the Pines ($33,000).

If the businesses decide to go with the 20-year bonds, they will pay about twice as much over the life of the bonds.

Tommy Tuso, general manager for Greenlaw, said the sewer assessments are bittersweet.

"It is needed as the sewer system is antiquated but these costs come at a time when everyone is strapped financially," Tuso said.

Marc Sobel, president of the Bass Lake Homeowners Association, served as the chairman of a 13-member community oversight committee that worked with county officials to formulate project needs and the assessment plan.

"These actions will make the waste water system more efficient, reliable and meet new state regulations," Sobel said. "Benefits will include reduced odors, electricity and labor costs."

In addition to the cost of the upgrade to each parcel owner in the district, each parcel owner will also be subject to an additional annual county assessment of $60 to go toward asset depreciation and future replacement costs.

The project is expected to go out for engineering bids this winter. Construction is expected to begin in 2015, with total completion in 2019.

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