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Hooking onto a proposed citywide sewer system could cost residents thousands of dollars in the near future.

The Highland City Council recently reiterated a policy that all homeowners living within in the current system's service area must connect to it within five years. Cost: $2,350. The city intends to send notices to residents who aren't in compliance. Sewer lines are available to about half the city; most homes use septic tanks.But that could change if the council decides to build sewer lines throughout the city at an estimated cost of $3.3 million.

There might be charges in addition to the city's connection fee. The Timpanogos Special Service District, which Highland is petitioning to be a voting member, intends to double the size of its wastewater treatment plant. The district is looking at several funding options, including impact fees. Possible cost: $3,000.

Homeowners must also pay for or perform the labor of running a pipe from the house to the underground trunk line.

Council members realize the cost could be burdensome. But the rapidly growing city can't function without a sewer system. The alternative might be to halt residential development, a drastic measure council members want to avoid.

"I'm not comfortable with it. It's not necessary," said Councilman Brent Cook.

That makes membership in the Timpanogos Special Service District essential, council members say.

"To me, joining that district should be our highest priority thing," said Councilman Glen Thurgood. The city currently contracts with Timpanogos for service, meaning it doesn't have a say in district matters. Alpine, American Fork, Lehi and Pleasant Grove are district members. "We really need to sit on the board and have a legitimate voice," he said.

The council agreed to make a formal proposal to the district and pay a $45,812 charge to join. Of three funding options presented to the council Wednesday, Mayor Ed Scott suggested the city go with the most expensive as a "goodwill gesture."

Highland currently has plans to build sewer lines on 6000 West and 9600 North to service two new subdivisions. But Thurgood sees that as a possibly expensive, piecemeal approach.

"I think you could have a citywide project that could go to construction next winter," Thurgood said.

That might be an ambitious schedule even though the council directed the city engineer to design a sewer master plan for consideration at its next meeting.

Cook, who acts as city budget officer, said the city would likely bond for the estimated $3.3 million system. He favors a revenue bond as opposed to a general obligation bond, which typically carries a property tax increase.

Cook might have to juggle that bond with another possible bond for the proposed $48.2 million northern Utah County pressurized irrigation system. Highland favors the system that would bring secondary water to homes for outdoor use, therefore stretching culinary water supplies.