CLINTON — Work will begin in the near future on the combined sewer separation in the basins near 13th and 15th avenues north.

City Engineer Steve Honse, Water Plant Superintendent Gary Schellhorn and Jay Brady, of Stanley Consultants, updated the Clinton City Council Tuesday on the project’s progress.

The design is being finalized, said Brady, and input is needed from the city regarding the disruption of streets in order to complete work.

The sewers from 13th to 17th avenues north, between Second and Fourth streets, will be separated. On 11th and 12th avenues north, the area will extend to Seventh Street.

Most of the streets in the area are concrete, said Honse, or concrete with asphalt on top.

However 14th Avenue North is seal coated with oil and gravel, which is the cheapest method of surfacing streets and requires the most maintenance. When that street is put back in, Honse recommended using concrete or asphalt. Curbs and gutters will be replaced as needed.

“I think any unimproved street worked on should get new curb and gutter and a hard surface,” said Ward 1 Councilman Bob Soesbe. Streets that are not hard-surfaced put dirt and gravel straight into the sewer, he said.

Road-use tax will fund the replacement of 14th and 15th avenues, said Honse. Surfacing of streets that will not be completely torn up will come from the sewer budget.

Fifty percent of the sewer backups in the city are in this area, said Schellhorn. By separating the sanitary and storm sewers, the city is serving the people while complying with the government mandate to separate the sewers so less untreated water is released into the Mississippi River.

The sewers in the area will be completely separated, said Schellhorn, with the new outfall in Joyce’s Slough.

The plan is for the project to be bid in March, said Brady, with work to be completed in the spring of 2007.

The council also discussed sewer bills, which many residents have not received since June.

Soesbe said he has received many calls regarding the bills, and asked where they stood.

The old software used to process billing was extremely outdated, said City Clerk Debbie Neels. When the new rate structure was implemented May 1, it could not accommodate the change because the internal programmer is no longer employed by the city.

Neels said it was originally believed the transition would take 90 days.

“It has been a monumental task that we probably underestimated, and the software vendors underestimated,” she said.

More than 700 residential bills were sent out this week, said Neels. Between 40 and 45 percent of the accounts have been reviewed individually, and all customers should receive a bill within four to six weeks.

“We are making progress,” she said, “but it’s slow.”

Under normal circumstances, residential customers receive sewer bills quarterly. Until accounts are caught up, bills will go out every 60 days, starting with the April-May-June consumption period.

Neels said the commercial customer accounts — which generate about half of the revenue, or roughly $150,000 monthly — were converted to the new system first, so the sewer revenue fund is not seriously depleted.