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After meeting with engineers Wednesday night, some Richmond City Council members are not sure now is the time to be asking voters for more money.
Concerns center around the high water and sewer rates residents are paying now. Rough estimates for the total cost of rebuilding the South Waste Water Plant and bringing the North Plant up to Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulations could exceed $6 million. In order to get funding for the plant, the city would have to ask voters to approve a bond issue in either the August or November election.
“People are wanting to see some real change,” Mayor Pro Tem Mike Wright commented to Waste Water Superintendent C.E. Goodall after the presentation.
Councilwoman Terrie Stanley said what the city is communicating or not communicating to residents is the severity of the issue at the South Plant.
“Unless you sit here and listen to all of this – you won’t understand,” Stanley said. “That explanation right there is what people need to know.”
The explanation Stanley spoke of came from Olsson Associates Engineer Jeff Thorn. Thorn told council members that the plans to stabilize the south train of the plant must move forward this year with or without a bond issue. Thorn illustrated how the side of the hill the train resides is sliding and eroding away. Thorn and Goodall told the council that underground pipes have split, causing sinkholes around the area. Goodall said the city has stopped mowing in the area for safety reasons.
Thorn said design plans for the stabilization would be complete by August and ready to go out for bid.
“That will have to go forward regardless,” Thorn said.
Thorn said he would have rough cost figures in 30 days if the city were going to take the issue to voters. The city has until the end of May to put the issue on the ballot.
The council members present seemed to be at a consensus that the stabilization needed to move forward. However Councilman Jim Dunwoodie asked the council if the city really should move forward with the rest of the project.
Thorn and Goodall made a case that it should. The crux of the project would be to completely rebuild the plant’s north train system. The system’s oxidation ditch had to be drained last year and sealed with foam. Thorn said he is amazed the seal is holding up as well as it is; however he said he doesn’t know how long it will last.
Thorn said cost savings measures would be looked at throughout the planning process. He also said DNR will not loan or fund unnecessary projects.
“As we go through the process, we’ll get harder numbers and we’ll make sure we ask for what we need,” Thorn said. “DNR won’t loan money to an oversized plant.”
Thorn also said the city will have to continue to address infiltration issues. He said Environmental Protection Agencies will not allow storm and sewer water to be separated. In the past, stormwater was allowed to bypass the oxidation process of treatment. Thorn said DNR will not approve a plan that does not address infiltration.
Photo: Storm water issues plague the city. On the corner of East Lexington and Shaw Streets, a water spout forms on the northwest corner when it rains. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)