After a resident of Evanston received a $ 45,000 bill to replace her sewer pipe, members of the city’s administrative and public works committee looked Monday at ways for the city to help residents get some of the bill cover.
Francine Allen of 2727 Elgin Road told Alders she needed to get life insurance to pay for the repair costs – which were well above average.
Costs soared because the sewer on Elgin Road is unusually deep and the work on the busy road required additional traffic control measures.
Public Works Director Dave Stoneback said three main factors affect the cost of sewer rehabilitation – the depth of the sewer, the traffic on the street, and whether the soil is clay or sand.
(Sandy soil adds to the cost as more shoring is required around the excavation to prevent subsidence.)
A map of sewage depths presented at the Administrative and Public Works Committee meeting on Monday.
Stoneback presented a map showing places in the city where the sewers are unusually deep and whether they are also on main roads.
About a third of the approximately 14,400 sewer connections in Evanston have at least one of these problems.
Sandy bottom, he added, is most common near the lake, generally east of Ridge Avenue.
He said the repair cost could range from $ 15,000 to $ 25,000 for a sewer more than 3 feet deep on a street with little traffic, and from $ 17,000 to $ 30,000 for a two to three meter sewer on a heavily used road busy street and from $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 in a sewer more than 10 feet deep on a busy street.
There are insurance policies for sewer repairs, but they typically limit benefits to around $ 10,000.
And although the monthly cost of insurance is relatively low, insurance companies can only stay in business if their average customer receives less policy benefits than they pay in premiums.
Extremely high sewer rehabilitation bills have been relatively rare in recent years. Stoneback said records of city permits totaled only six over the past five years, at over $ 25,000.
Stoneback said one possible solution could be to require home sellers to inspect the sewer and show an affidavit of its condition at the time of sale so buyers know what they are getting into.
However, council members expressed concerns about what this would add to the cost of buying the property and whether buyers would pay attention to the report amid the blizzard of other papers to sign on a deal.
Stoneback also suggested that the city could develop a program to provide a mix of grants and / or loans to residents to cover repair costs – and adjust the design of the program to provide more help to lower-income residents.
He said that some communities are providing assistance to residents faced with a sewer replacement bill, but the vast majority, including our neighbor Skokie, are not.
Council members encouraged staff to do more research on the cost and effectiveness of the potential solutions.