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Seriously, how much will the Los Osos sewer cost?

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On Oct. 5, San Luis Obispo County Public Works staffers are scheduled to explain exactly how the Los Osos Wastewater Project will be funded, and how much it’s actually going to cost.

County officials have long cited an estimated price tag of about $166 million. A new dollar figure listed on an application to the United States Department of Agriculture, however, sparked questions as to how big the project is. According to that application, the sewer will cost $189.2 million.

“This has caused some confusion,” said Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Los Osos.

The public part of the project, financed by an assessment on property owners, will cost $166 million—that’s to build the collection and treatment system. Individual property owners, on top of their assessment, will further pay for
their on-lot costs.

And actually, the public cost is no longer $165 million. Factoring in interest payments and cost left over when the Los Osos Community Services District was handling the project, the real cost is closer to $173.6 million.

When the project moves into the construction phase, homeowners will likely receive monthly bills of about $150, but county officials have estimated the actual cost for individuals will be $200. Those estimates are based on expected interest rates when homeowners borrow money to connect their properties to the sewer.

County supervisors are scheduled to direct project officials to come up with a firm per-person cost to fund the sewer. Supervisors could additionally approve a $750,000 hike in the budget in order to hire consultants, pay application fees, and handle other costs associated with getting construction moving. According to a staff report, the money will come out of a county road fund.

Not all has gone as expected when it comes to funding the project. County officials applied for and won a USDA grant-loan under the last round of federal stimulus funds. The county received $4 million in grants, and the remainder will come in the form of a loan. However, the original hope was for $16 million in grants. Gibson said the grant funding came in lower because of delays due to appeals filed with the California Coastal Commission.

And moving forward, county officials still need to request $27 million from undeveloped property owners. If those property owners decide not to assess themselves for the cost, owners of developed properties will have to front the money, which will be made up as the county charges connection fees for undeveloped properties, said Project Engineer John Waddell.

County officials further hope to obtain money from a state revolving loan.

“We’re hoping that will help address this issue for some people that can’t afford it,” Waddell said.

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