Fifty years ago, Vickie Foran planted a tree in front of her Center Grove area home with her father.
That tree, along with several other mature trees in the front yard of her house on Paddock Road, stand to be torn down in a couple of years when a new sewer line is installed by the city of Greenwood.
Foran and several dozen other Center Grove area residents, many of whom have homes in the path of the proposed 10-mile, $62.2 million sewer line, questioned the necessity of the project and the effects it will have on their properties during a Tuesday evening open house.
Greenwood officials said the western regional interceptor pipeline is necessary to alleviate overflows with the undersized sewer system, comply with Indiana Department of Environment Management regulations and to be prepared for future residential and commercial development.
The project would be funded by a 49 percent increase in sewer rates from 2017 to 2020. The average customer on the sewer system would see their monthly bill increase from about $32 now to $48 in 2020.
In 2017, the city will begin work to buy the land needed along the route of the pipeline. Once those are acquired, construction is projected to start as early as July 2018.
Any damage to the land from the pipeline project would be repaired, city officials said.
“The goal is to restore the ground to as good or better condition,” city engineer Mark Richards said.
Trees removed along the route of the pipeline won’t be able to be replanted in the same location, he said.
“Trees and sanitary sewers are not compatible,” Richards said.
Property improvements — irrigation systems, fences or retaining walls — would be considered by an appraiser when determining how much to pay a homeowner for land needed if they have to be removed or moved, he said.
The pipeline will begin west of State Road 135 near Olive Branch Road. The pipeline will primarily follow Turkey Pen Creek and Honey Creek to Paddock Road, where it will turn north and go past County Line Road.
The promise from city officials that yards would be restored wasn’t enough to assuage some residents’ concerns.
Duane Wallin said he’s spent more than $10,000 landscaping the backyard of his home on Wakefield Drive during the past 15 years, work that would be torn up if the sewer line is approved. Wallin, who is retired, said he has spent countless hours beautifying his backyard, which neighbors and friends have used as a background for prom or family photos.
He said he doesn’t believe city officials paid any attention to the effect of the pipeline on residents and their properties.
“All they did was draw a line from point A to point B,” Duane said.
But city officials said the path they chose was the one with the most minimal impact on homeowners.
“This route is probably going to impact the least number of people,” Richards said.
Planners have done a good job minimizing the impact of the project with only 10 miles of sewer line in residential neighborhoods, city attorney Krista Taggart said.
Several residents asked if the line could be sent west to State Road 37 before heading north, allowing it to avoid cutting through residential neighborhoods.
Changing the route of the project would make it more expensive, and the terrain along that route would make a gravity-based sewer system more difficult to build, Richards said.
The route also saves the city money in some expenses, since the city will be able to shut down 10 lift stations that are currently in use. The city will save $250,000 a year by no longer having to operate or maintain them, he said.
“The goal is to eliminate the lift stations,” Richards said.
Altering the proposed route would also defeat the purpose of bringing the homes along the route onto the new sewer system, Taggart said.
Other residents asked if the line could be put under roads instead, but Richards said that would both increase the cost of the project and raise other complications, as permission would be needed from Johnson County to do that work.
Another meeting is planned to provide information and gather feedback about the proposed sewer projects and fee increase:
What: Open house
When: 4:30 to 6 p.m., Nov. 3
Where: City building, 300 S. Madison Ave., Greenwood
Here is a look at how the average sewer bill would increase over the next few years under the city’s proposal to increase sewer fees to pay for sewer projects: