URBANA — City council members will get their first formal proposal tonight on how to provide some relief for Ellis subdivision residents, who say their sanitary-sewer repair costs are getting out of hand.
City officials say sewer repairs that can cost thousands of dollars are a citywide problem that need to be addressed, and they could support bolstering a reimbursement program when council members meet as a committee of the whole at 7 p.m. in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.
Since 2008, the city has reimbursed property owners for a portion of sewer repairs when those repairs require that workers tear up a city street, alley or sidewalk. The city repays the property owner 50 percent of the cost to repair the street, up to a maximum of $3,000.
According to city documents, 24 property owners have been reimbursed nearly $45,000 since the program began in 2008.
In a letter to the city council earlier this month, Mayor Laurel Prussing proposed upping that cost-sharing percentage from 50 percent to 75 percent and raising the maximum to $4,500.
"Ideally, we would like a solution that does not cost more than our current sewer revenues," Prussing wrote. "We also want to find the best way to help people who cannot afford the up-front costs and for whom a reimbursement program is not practical."
Council members could take a preliminary vote on her proposal at tonight's meeting. Ac- cording to city documents, of- ficials plan to be more proactive in telling residents about the reimbursement program, too.
The discussion on sanitary sewers in the Ellis subdivision turned somewhat political this month when Rex Bradfield, a Republican candidate for mayor in the April 9 election, asked to meet with city officials to propose a solution.
Bradfield's suggestion was that the city should pay for sewer lateral repairs up to the property line, and the property owner should pay for repairs to the portion of the sewer that runs under their property.
Bradfield, who has decades of engineering experience, was not allowed to attend a meeting between city officials and the residents who asked him to be there. City officials offered Bradfield an invitation to a separate meeting, but he turned down the offer and said a separate meeting was not what Ellis residents want.