The Lakeway Municipal Utility District (LMUD) Board of Directors invited Stephanie Threinen, LMUD Public Information Liaison to present at the May 11, 2022 Board of Directors meeting to give a general overview of the communications aspect of the Out of District Wastewater (ODWW) Project:
There are many moving pieces to this project with a lot of people involved in various aspects:
- Earl Foster and Christianne Castleberry: Our general manager is responsible for creating and managing the project budget; our engineer is hands on with designing and mapping the main lines and system components.
- Stephanie Threinen: as Public Information Liaison for LMUD, she is responsible for all mass communication to LMUD customers. She also handles individual customer inquiries, paperwork, payments, and relaying schedule updates for the Project.
- Cyprain “Cy” Ndefung: As a field team lead, he handles site assessments for all project installs as well as supervises installs on site. Zach Trippe, another team lead, serves as backup.
- Roger Fry: As field team supervisor, he is responsible for the coordination of installs, ensuring adequate levels of supplies and equipment functionality. He is also our main contact for contractors completing our main line extensions.
- Electrician: We contract out to an electrician to handle the electrical work needed for these grinder pump installs since the work requires a licensed professional.
- Field Team: all members of our field team are trained and perform installs of the grinder pump systems as well as provide ongoing maintenance.
- IO Inspections: Troy Gray provides the final (third-party) inspection after each install to confirm it is installed to code.
- Vanessa Farrell: Once the install is complete, our utility billing specialist makes changes to the customer’s account to reflect the addition of wastewater service and grinder pump maintenance.
By the Numbers
- Eligibility: We show that there are approx. 334 properties in the Phase 1 area (around the Live Oak Golf Couse) eligible to connect to sewer. There are an additional approx. 861 properties eligible for connection in Phase 2 for a total of approx. 1,195 properties impacted by this project. We currently anticipate an 85 percent opt-in rate, however we assume this number will increase as more people are made aware of the Project and more septic systems fail.
- Early Connection List: As we complete Phase 1 installs, customers in the later sections of Phase 1 as well as in Phase 2 are signing up for an early connection so they can connect to sewer before we offer their area a regular (no upfront fees) connection. There are currently 39 customers who have paid to be on this list with 16 of them opting to wait for us to complete their install and 23 more choosing to hire contractors to complete the work for them.
Customer Touch Points
Customers always have the option to visit our website for information about the project. We also provide updates in our newsletter which is mailed out to our customers every other bill cycle (three times per year). Most customers choose to ask specific questions by email, which are all routed to Stephanie for response. Phone calls pertaining to the Project are also routed to Stephanie.
ODWW Project Workflow Checklist
With all of the moving pieces, a detailed checklist has been created to ensure no step is overlooked – from the date of contract submission through work order close date, and final communication to the customer about their responsibilities for ongoing system maintenance.
Connection Process – Step 1: Inquiry
When a customer reaches out to LMUD about their options for connecting to public sewer, we need to determine: 1). If a main line is already installed near their property, 2). If they are looking to have us install the system for them or if they are willing to hire contractors, and 3). If it’s possible for us to meet their timeline requirements.
Connection Process – Step 2: Paperwork and Fees
Once we have an understanding on the items from Step 1, the customer must fill out two forms: 1) the opt-in contract, stating their intention to connect to sewer and agree to the terms of this additional service and 2) a new service contract, which is kept on file and activated once the connection is complete and wastewater service is added to the account. Depending on their connection option and status of their customer account, they may have some fees that need to be paid upfront to officially be on opt-in list.
Connection Process – Step 3: Site Assessment
Before the install can begin, we perform what is called a “site assessment”. This consists of taking pictures around the property and making markups as to where the existing septic tank is to be decommissioned and the placement of the grinder pump tank and control panel, as well as the route to bring the service line to the main sewer line. For LMUD-installs, it is also discussed what is beyond our scope of work: what the customer needs to do before the install can begin and what they will be responsible for after our crew is done. All of this is discussed with the homeowner(s) and they must sign off on the form, of which they receive a copy for their records.
Connection Process – Step 4: Electrical + Install
The first step in the install process is electrical: the contracted electrician will bring 240 volt electricity from the home’s main electrical panel to the location of the new control panel for the grinder pump, then install the panel, usually on the side of the house. Then the install team will install the grinder pump tank and connected service lines to the tie in to the main line. After step 4 ½ they will regrade and cleanup the work zone.
Connection Process – Step 4 ½: Decommission Septic
Decommissioning the septic system consists of following guidelines provided by LCRA: the septic tank is not removed; liquid in the tank is hauled off, then holes are poked in the bottom, so it doesn’t fill back up and then the tank is either collapsed or filled in. Paperwork is then filed with LCRA, so they know it is no longer an active system.
Connection Process – Step 5: Final Inspection
Upon completion, a completed work order is used to initiate a service update in our billing system as well as to schedule a final inspection with our third-party inspector to confirm it has been installed correctly to plumbing code.
Connection Process – Step 6: Fees, Service Plan, Maintenance
Pending a passed inspection, before we mark the install as complete, we reach out to the homeowners to see if they have any questions or concerns about the completed work. We also notify them of the extra charges they will begin seeing on their bill as well as their responsibility for the proper maintenance of the system. If they need any repairs to the system, they are notified to call us (our service techs are available 24/7/365).
Of course, we have received some negative feedback throughout this project, but we have tried to use that feedback to make changes to better meet our customers’ needs. Some of the positive feedback we have received includes comments about the professional, friendly nature of our crew, as well as their promptness and courtesy.
- We expect to begin offering recycled water connections to eligible customers in the very near future. This includes homes in Phase 1 around the Live Oak Golf Course. Details – including install specs and contracts – are still in the works.
- WaterSmart, an app for customers to have direct access to their water use data, is currently in the implementation stage. We currently expect to be able to launch this to customers early fall.