Posted on

Under pressure

Under pressure Under pressure

City looks to third tower to increase water pressure on north side

A plan to build a third water tower in the city of Medford inched forward Tuesday night with city council approval to hire Ayres Associates to engineer the project.

The approval came with questions from aldermen about the need for the project and if hiring the engineer would commit the city to build the tower.

Alderman Mike Bub questioned the need for the tower. “We have two water towers now. Our populations hasn’t changed much in the past decade,” he said.

According to city coordinator John Fales the need for the tower is not population driven but rather is driven by water pressure. “It is a service concern,” Fales said.

“What happens if we don’t move forward? Could we support an influx of people in that area?” asked alderman Christine Weix.

Fales explained that the water pressure at the northern end of the system is close to the minimum for municipal systems. The lack of pressure on the north side becomes a problem for commercial development that require a higher pressure for fire suppression systems and for other uses. He said the pressure will only get worse as the city expands further north and to the east due to elevation changes.

The city hired AECOM to do a study of the system in 2015. That study’s recommendation was to construct an additional water tower and establish a second pressure zone in the city.

Fales said that the system in place works but that without a second tower and pressure zone it would effectively prevent growth to the north. The city has been looking for a suitable spot for a third tower for the past few years and was recently approached by a property owner looking to annex slightly more than 40 acres of land on Allman Ave. near Stillwater Dr. in order to build a residential development. The elevation of the property would make it an ideal site for a third tower while opening the door to residential growth in the city.

In addition to the water tower and pressure zone, the engineering also includes the extension of the east side sewer interceptor to Allman St. This will allow gravity flow of wastewater from the northeast section of the city and eliminate a lift station near Malibu Dr. and Impala Dr. Fales said this project has been a goal in the city for the past 35 years.

The water tower project is included in Tax Incremental District (TID) No. 13’s project plans and would be funded by the water utility and TID revenues. Fales said that even with the decreases in valuation for TID 13 due to the revaluation of the Walmart store, there is enough tax increment in the district to cover its portion of the water tower cost.

This was a relief to Bub who expressed concern about TID 13 needing to get bailed out by other districts. Fales said this is not an option for TID 13 and the district must stand on its own.

He said the plan is to use city reserve funds to pay the initial cost of the engineering work and then repay the general fund when and if the project moves forward to a construction phase. He noted that this is just a step in a process that he estimated would take about two years to complete in order to have the tower up.

Alderman voted to hire Ayres to do the engineering for the project at a cost of $248,300. The total estimated construction costs are about $2.4 million. The actual cost will depend on the bids received when the projects get to that point.

In other business, aldermen:

_ Approved an agreement with the village of Stetsonville to operate the village’s water treatment plant. The contract is for one year and the village will be charged the city’s external work rate which covers the wages and benefits of the employee. Alderman Clem Johnson questioned why it took months before council was told of the arrangement and only learned about it when they were asked to approve a contract. “Don’t they trust us?” Clem asked, expressing concern about staff keeping information from council.

_ Received word that the former Brass Rail was sold and that the new owners had already met with city staff about getting the liquor license transferred to them. The bar was closed last year after a bank took ownership of it and it faced the possibility of losing its liquor license under the city’s “use it or lose it” provision in the liquor codes.

_ Approved purchasing a new tracked E85 Bobcat Compact Excavator and trailer at a cost of $105,844 from Bobcat Plus of Eau Claire. The machine will replace the existing wheeled tractor which is planned to be sold at auction this spring. Johnson suggested waiting a year to get rid of the older tractor because of its use in clearing hydrants, loading materials and other uses which the excavator would not be practical for. According to Fales the excavator will allow the city to move in a new direction and do more in-house rather than having to hire out for smaller road or stormwater projects. He said that by the city doing blacktop removal and storm water work on Central Court last year it saved more than $20,000 in expense. Action on disposing of the existing tractor was not on the agenda and will be brought forward at a future meeting.

_ Approved setting the wages for swimming pool staff. Returning employees will receive 3% over what they were paid last year as an incentive to return this year.