OXFORD, Ga. – After six months of discussion, the Oxford City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to approve changes to the city’s sewer ordinance.
Members Jim Windham and David Eady cast the dissenting votes.
The summer-long debate was sparked by a May 1 council decision to expand the city’s sewer system to 42 homes along Emory Street between the Palmer Stone School building to the north and Wentworth Drive to the South.
The May vote required owners of properties where the property line is situated within 100 feet of a right of way containing sewer lines to connect to the system within 120 days of the completion of the expansion and pay a $3,600 tap on fee to do it.
The mandatory connection requirement and associated fees were met with opposition from several homeowners along the stretch who voiced concerns about their ability to pay the high connection costs. Many also questioned why they were being required to connect to a sewer system while their septic systems were functioning normally.
The ordinance approved Monday night specifies that the dwelling on the property must be located within the 100 feet. It also waives the mandatory connection requirement with certain provisions.
Under the new ordinance, property owners where a dwelling unit is situated within 100 feet of a sewer line are still required to connect to the system within 120 days of the adoption of the ordinance or within 120 days from the time that later constructed public sewer lines are accepted by the city. Homeowners must also pay the required city tap on fee and request scheduling of connection to the sewer.
The mandatory connection will be deferred for five years, however, if the property owners who are required to connect present documented evidence to the city clerk that their existing private sewage system or septic tank is functioning in accordance with state and county health standards.
The evidence must be signed by a septic tank contractor who is certified by the Georgia Department of Health. Property owners will be required to submit the documented evidence every five years or the mandatory connection provisions of the ordinance will apply.
The new ordinance also states if any private sewage system, septic tank or cesspool on property where the sewer is within 100 feet of the dwelling units or principal dwellings fails or requires significant maintenance, the owner of the property will be required to immediately connect to the sewer.
Significant maintenance is defined as costs as exceeding 50 percent of replacement costs or closure/connection costs. The new ordinance states that “owners of such private sewage systems shall not at any time make repairs, alterations or extensions to any private sewage system in any way where public sewer lines are available.”
In September, the council approved a framework for the ordinance change that calls for property owners who connect prior to Dec. 31, 2023, to receive at $1,800 credit toward the $3,600 tap fee to connect to the system. It provides an additional $1,800 credit to any property owner who granted the city an easement to install the system.
Expansion of the system required easements across 28 of the 42 affected properties.
Property owners are required to pay plumbing costs to connect to the sewer.
Assistant City Manager Matt Pepper said the city hopes to start work on the project early next year.