Wastewater plant construction estimates skyrocket

An already daunting task of asking taxpayers to fund another bond to pay for improvements to the city’s sewer system became even more staggering on Wednesday.
City officials learned yesterday that cost estimates for the expansion and improvement of the city’s system exceeds $8 million.
City officials were expecting a figure somewhere between $5.5 and $6 million.
The city is holding a special meeting tonight to decide whether or not to place a revenue bond issue on the August ballot. During a tour of the city’s South Wastewater Plant Wednesday night, council members indicated they were not supportive of putting the issue on the August ballot. Additionally, councilmen said they were not sure about a November ballot either.
With last week’s lower estimates City Administrator Rick Childers estimated that water bills would have to increase by about $7 a month on a typical $100 a month bill. Those estimates nearly doubled Wednesday night.
“Is the plant replacement something that has to happen this year? No,” Childers said. “Is it something that has to happen? Yes.”
Childers said the high estimate could be attributed to a couple of areas. He said the estimate includes nearly $1 million in contingency funds. In addition, retrofitting a new electronic system will cost close to $1 million.
The immediate concern at the plant is the south train system. The hillside that supports the system is quickly eroding away. In the last nine months the hillside visibly has shown signs of concern. Underground pipes that connect the system have been pulled apart and a truck bedliner is being used to connect two pipes together.
Wastewater Superintendent C.E. Goodall said the city is not in any trouble with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources now, but if something were to occur with the hillside, the city would be responsible.
“It’s good right now because it’s not bothering anything,” Goodall said. “As soon as it becomes an issue – it’s our fault.”
Childers said last year workers came in one day to find a sink hole in the side of the hill about six feet wide. He said another worker was almost injured last year while trying to mow the grass on the hillside when some dirt gave way.
Childers said the engineers believe the hillside was made from fill dirt and that a more compact soil may be brought in. The city has contracted for engineering to stabilize the hillside and cost estimates have the construction at about $180,000.
Other issues at the plant include a north train that has run its lifecycle. A large concrete section of the oxidation ditch has separated from the rest of the system. Last year the system was drained and cracks were filled in. Goodall also said parts for the system have become hard to find.
The plant is also at capacity. Childers said DNR would not allow an additional large-scale development to hook onto the system. Goodall said the system now is within 10 percent of capacity.
PHOTO: A clarifier on the South Wastewater Plant is losing the ground around it. In addition, parts of the hillside has been dug to reconnect lines that have become disconnected due to the shift. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)

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