The city of Madras is scheduled to break ground this spring on a sewer project in two neighborhoods, and many residents voiced concern about the potential cost.

Residents could be on the hook for up to $16,000 to connect to the new sewer line.

The city was awarded a $1.1 million loan from the Department of Environmental Quality in spring 2017 to extend the city sewer into the Bel-Air and Herzberg Heights subdivisions in northeast Madras. After two public hearings and plenty of concern over the potential cost of connecting to the city sewer, Madras Public Works Director Jeff Hurd went door-to-door to explain the impact to residents, he said.

According to state law, the DEQ will not issue a permit for a private septic system for a property that is within 300 feet of a public sewer. That means when septic systems in these neighborhoods fail or need upgrades, the property owners will likely have to connect to the sewer rather than fixing their septic systems. The Madras City Council is still determining what action will be required for residents who have an illegal septic system — a drill hole or dry well, for example — city administrator Gus Burril said.

“We are just making sure we are clear on what we are and are not requiring to be done,” he said. “The council wishes to be sensitive to the neighborhood, and as we make those decisions and communicate them out to the public, people will know what to plan come next summer or early fall.”

After the new sewer lines are in place, the cost to property owners for connecting to the sewer could range from $9,500 to $16,000. There are many incentive programs — such as one offered by NeighborImpact, a nonprofit supporting communities and low-income households — available to help alleviate the burden.

The City Council is still debating the possibility of reducing hookup fees and what kinds of monetary incentives it could offer, and wants to clarify the requirements for legal and non-legal septic systems, Burril said.

“I had the chance to visit with (Hurd) one-on-one, and I can see that they are trying really hard to get something worked out that is acceptable to the community,” said Vic Delamarter, a real estate agent at Midlands Realty and a resident of the area getting new sewer access. “This is an existing neighborhood, not new construction. I think the City Council needs to be cognizant of the expense that they are adding to the local residents.”

Residents who are on a legal septic system will be able to remain on those systems and will not have to connect to the city sewer right away, Hurd said.

“Some folks do need it though and it’s here now,” he said. “When the system does go, it’s here and ready for you.”

One added benefit to the sewer project is the repaving of roads that haven’t been touched for years, Hurd added.

“We are not only putting in sewers, but also repaving,” he said. “These roads used to be county roads and have only been under city jurisdiction for a couple years, so we will finally be able to do that for the residents in those neighborhoods.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,