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Johnson County testing sewer line repair program

Nothing smells of bad news like a broken home sewer line. The diagnosis means contractors will soon be digging up your yard and — if you’re unlucky enough — part of your street too. You’ll be paying thousands to set things right.

If that happens to you, Johnson County has come up with a way to make things go down a little easier. For a limited time, residents facing street repair for sewer work can get as much as $5,000 from a special fund of $500,000.

The pilot program went into effect in June and is intended to help with the substantial street repair costs that many homeowners don’t realize they’ll be billed for, said Susan Pekarek, general manager of Johnson County Wastewater.

“Most people don’t even think about their sewer lines and it can be very costly,” she said.

The sewer line that runs from each home often reaches at least part way under the street to connect with the main. If that pipe collapses, the homeowner pays for the repairs.

The county’s program has some restrictions. It’s only for single-family homeowners facing repair on a paved public street as part of the cost. And it can’t be used for an initial hook-up for someone with a septic tank, for instance.

The program, paid for from the wastewater department operating reserves, is first-come-first-served. It will last for one year or until the money runs out.

So far, the county has paid $5,300 to two property owners who qualified, and paperwork is in the pipeline for two others. Pekarek said the public and plumbers are still learning about the program’s existence.

Sewer and water line repair have been on the radar of many cities the past few years, with cities promoting insurance programs that cover broken lines for a monthly fee.

The county reimbursement is another option in addition to private insurance, Pekarek said. However the county commission has not put any insurance company names forward to residents, as some cities have done.

The reimbursement program is for everyone on the county sewer system, but is expected to be particularly helpful in older neighborhoods, Pekarek said.

For more information, contact Johnson County Wastewater at 913-715-8500

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