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Water, sewer upgrades in Outlook won't come cheap

YAKIMA - How much are clean water and a good sewer system worth?

The answer, if you live in Outlook, could be plenty.

Yakima County staff yesterday, Tuesday, unveiled research that shows it could cost a typical household as much as $175 per month for a new water and sewer system.

The county received $50,000 in grants to fund research on fixing Outlook's water and sewer problems, which were deemed a public health emergency several years ago.

As recently as this past December, water quality found in the wells in the Outlook area came under scrutiny when the Sunnyside School District found high nitrate levels in the Outlook Elementary School water system. A state health warning issued at the time advised that all Outlook well owners monitor water quality due to nitrate concerns.

Speaking prior to yesterday's county hearing, Yakima County Assistant Director of Public Services Don Gatchalian said research findings show that it will cost $2.2 million to install a new water system in Outlook and $2.5 million for sewer.

The good news is that the county is confident it can gain grant funding to pay for 80 or 90 percent of the improvements.

The bad news is that the remainder would have to be borrowed by the county and paid back by Outlook water and sewer users.

Gatchalian said the monthly fee would be about $98 for water and $76 for sewer. Those figures include the cost for having the utilities plus debt payment.

With the numbers in hand, Gatchalian said the next step will be to meet with Outlook residents to gauge their willingness to proceed with utility upgrades. "It has to be driven by the residents," he said of following through with the improvements.

If the Outlook community says it wants the county to proceed, Gatchalian said work could start fairly soon on the sewer improvements since there is already a connection in place at Outlook Elementary School.

Gatchalian noted that the county would first need to confer with Sunnyside before hooking up to city utilities. He said the initial feedback has been positive from the city, which was confirmed by Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler.

Installing a new water system may take longer as, according to Gatchalian, the study recommends a $600,000 cost savings by waiting until Sunnyside's Monson property is developed to shorten the length of water line upgrades needed.

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