Seventy-five residents of the Colonial Park development in Dallastown are fighting the borough over a decision that will force the residents to pay
Seventy-five residents of the Colonial Park development in Dallastown are fighting the borough over a decision that will force the residents to pay thousands of dollars to convert from septic to public sewer. Monday December 9, 2013. John A. Pavoncello - jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com

More than 70 homeowners in the Colonial Park subdivision off Park Street in Dallastown must pay thousands of dollars to connect to the borough's public sewer system, vexing dozens of residents who claim they aren't having problems with their circa-1970s septic systems.

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars the improvements will cost homeowners who must connect, existing sewer customers are also expected to pay more on their bills to contribute to the cost of the project.

Footing the bill: Richard Resh, the project's manager for York-based C.S. Davidson, said residents must pay for an estimated 40-to-140 feet of pipe to connect to the line, and the cost ranges between $100 to $175 per foot, depending on the depth. There's also expected to be a tapping fee of $2,400, a connection fee of $1,250, and plumbing permits and inspection fees of less than $50 each, he said.

Resh said the borough council is expected to approve those costs during an upcoming meeting.

The borough council recently voted to increase the rates for existing customers (who currently pay $118 per quarter) by $10 per quarter, said borough manager Connie Stokes.

New customers, those who must also pay to connect to the system, would pay $200, $250 or $275 per quarter under the options being considered by council, Resh said.

The DEP deadline for connection is 2016, with the borough hoping for hookups between June, July, and August of that year, he said.

The $3.4 million estimated cost of the project covers only a pumping station and the street pipes to which residents will connect; it doesn't include the thousands of dollars each homeowner will pay to connect, he said.

The borough is footing $250,000 from a sewer fund and borrowing $3 million to pay for the project, he said. The loan will be paid through the fees collected and increased rates the sewer customers will pay, he said.

Resh said sewer connection projects, for which liens can be placed against homes if homeowners don't pay, are never popular. There are currently no grants available to help pay for the improvements, which are necessary as the septic tanks age, he said.

The homes were built on quarter-acre lots, and "if somebody has a problem and needs to replace a drain field, there's not enough room."

The resistance: Township engineer Steve Malesker, also from C.S. Davidson, said the state's Department of Environmental Protection mandated the borough to connect with Colonial Park after some homes were having problems with their septic tanks.

But most homeowners, including Kirsta Lane resident Sandy Sterner and her husband Kim Sterner, are among those saying their septic tank works and they don't want to pay the thousands the borough wants.

They've lived in their house since the 70s and have known for a few years that they'll have to make the switch, Sandy Sterner said. They don't mind that, she said, but they want the borough to consider less expensive options.

Kim Sterner said it's estimated to cost $4,800 plus fees for the 47 feet of pipe his property needs to connect.

He said they're lucky compared to some neighbors who must pay about $15,000, but he will refuse to pay the up-to $275 quarterly fee in addition to the cost of connection.

"They can put a lien on my property," he said. "I won't do it."

Sandy Sterner said the cost of sewer connection, along with the quarterly bill, will bankrupt some neighbors and cause them to be foreclosed on.

Her husband said property values in the neighborhood are stagnant, and at least one homeowner who sold his house lost tens of thousands of dollars because he had to disclose the cost of the sewer line the new owner must field.

"They're rendering our homes unmarketable," he said.

Borough council president Ronald Smith did not return calls for comment.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.