County approves septic loan program
New program will help homeowners finance septic system upgrades
Homeowners in Taylor County now have additional options when paying for needed septic system repairs or replacement.
On a vote of 15-2 members of the Taylor County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved establishing a countybased revolving loan fund that is targeted toward low to middle-income homeowners. Board members Tim Hansen and Ray Soper voted against the measure.
Hansen objected to the loan plan saying the county did not belong being a banker and making loans. He also raised concerns about the program being focused solely to rural residents and not doing anything to address concerns of city, village and other county residents on municipal sewer districts who have expenses due to failing laterals. Hansen said he was concerned about the county taking on “shaky” loans and then having to take properties from those who were unable to pay those loans back.
Board member Gene Knoll, who has a long career as a banker, explained that the program will fill an important niche for people who may otherwise find it difficult to get financing for the needed work while also improving the salability of the property in the future.
He gave the example of an older couple who continue to live in their family home but with their fixed income may not qualify for a traditional refinancing through a bank for the cost of septic system upgrades. These run between $8,000 and $20,000 depending on the type used. Knoll noted the county program would allow the groundwater to be protected and allow them to remain in their homes for a longer period of time.
While there are state programs that are targeted toward low income homeowners many times the asset levels of individuals prevent them from qualifying for those programs.
In response to concerns about it not benefiting those on municipal systems, Jessica Mudgett of the Taylor County Housing Authority (TCHA) explained that the housing rehabilitation programs available through her office could address that area. She explained that having the county program in place to take care of the higher-cost systems would free up money to be able to help other homeowners with replacing failing laterals which are typically much less expensive to replace than an entire system. The TCHA will administer the loan program for the county.
An ad hoc committee has been working on the loan program for the past year with it spearheaded by board member Lester Lewis and administrator Kyle Noonan along with his staff at the county zoning office. It was noted that the county currently has 4,600 private onsite waste treatment systems (POWTS) with about 2,000 other systems that are currently not permitted.
Board member Rod Adams questioned how the county would award the loans, if it would be by firstcome- first served or by severity. Noonan explained that a committee will review all the applicants and that it would be up to that committee to come up with ranking on prioritizing who receives loans. Under the program, the loan would be secured through a mortgage on the property with the county able to assess payments onto the property’s tax bill.
The revolving loan fund is currently capped at $300,000. The initial $200,000 of that are designated to come from the land remediation fund account. Funds for that account come from the sale of property taken on tax deed and are typically used to do environmental clean-up of properties in order for the county to sell them. County finance director Larry Brandl, said that if additional funds are needed for loans it would come from general county reserves. As a revolving loan program, as money is paid back, it will be available to be loaned out for other clients.
Board member Mike Bub praised the committee and staff members for their work on setting up the program and for providing board members with a detailed summary prior to the meeting so that they had time to review it.
Homeless shelter grant
Taylor County took a major step forward in addressing the needs of homeless individuals in the county. Board members unanimously approved the submission of a community development block grant (CDBG) application to fund a homeless shelter in the county.
Taylor County Supportive Housing is an independent non-profit organization that is seeking $320,000 in federal grant funds, it is headed by Mudgett who through her experience with TCHA saw the need to address homeless problems in the county.
The county is involved in the process because of the specific grant program involved. The county previously had a revolving loan fund which had been funded through a federal CDBG grant. Rule changes at the state and federal level saw those funds pulled back away from the county with the county having an option to then apply for a set amount of time for project-based grants using that money. If the money was not used for eligible projects it would go back to the federal government. Last year, the county was able to secure additional grant funding for the Western Taylor County Public Library through the program.
According to Mudgett, the grant funds would be used to purchase a building to be used as a shelter. Organizers are currently anticipating needing a fourbedroom home to meet the needs of the shelter. Grant funds would also cover two years of expense with hiring a director to oversee the shelter. The group has a pledge from the Salvation Army to cover utility expenses and is seeking additional grants through state and nongovernmental sources for ongoing funding. Other than some administrative reporting work required by the grant program, the county would not be involved in the running of the shelter.