Progress is occurring once more on the long-planned Route 50 sewer project, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally giving the go-ahead to advertise for construction work.
The project had stalled for some months due to uncertainty of regulations concerning shared trenches. The project will provide sanitary sewers to the housing subdivisions along Route 50W and to some other nearby areas that are currently served by septic tanks. It is considered an environmental project. The sewage would be treated by the city of Athens, and broadband fiber cable will be laid to provide connectivity for residents in the same area.
Intelliwave, a communication company, will be organizing the portion of the the project concerning laying fiber cable, and will be laying the cable without digging a trench of its own. That means lowering the cost of such a project for the company — all Intelliwave would be responsible for is the cost of laying its conduit and cable, which will go overtop the sanitary sewer line.
The project bid advertisements will go out in early March, and will mark the first step toward actual construction of the sewer line.
In 2014, engineering for the project was authorized. It was at that time that the city of Athens and the county entered into an agreement for the city to treat the equivalent of 1,500 single households. Essentially, the city would provide treatment for existing residential and commercial development in the area, with only a little room for growth.
The county has said it will pay the city a $3.9 million capacity fee for use of the treatment plant.
In the spring of 2018, a discussion on grinder pumps began. About 60 homes were required to have such pumps in order to be a part of the sanitary sewer system. Homes required to have grinder pumps were not required to hook into the new sanitary sewer.
In April 2019, the commissioners continued discussing the project and aimed at putting it out to bid by May or June. Funding was discussed: The USDA agreed to provide $14.3 million in grant funds and a 40-year, $14.5 million loan at 2 percent interest toward the overall project cost.
Last summer, the project’s cost jumped nearly $6 million, and additional federal funding was sought. The nearly $20.8 million construction cost estimate has risen of $26.6 million, and the $28.6 million overall cost estimate for the project has risen to $34.5 million.