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Phased approach chosen as option for treatment plant

Phased approach chosen as option for treatment plant Phased approach chosen as option for treatment plant

Cornell City Council

After four years of back and forth, the Cornell City Council has set plans in motion for updates to the wastewater treatment plant. Members discussed the matter a final time before moving ahead, at an organizational meeting April 21.

The city has received a $1 million Community Development Block Grant and plans to apply for the DNR’s Clean Water Fund, which, if awarded, would provide $750,000 of principal forgiveness.

The project was broken down into phases, with two completed simultaneously, or completed separately.

Before moving forward, council president Steve Turany had a few questions for Kevin Oium, senior engineer with Cedar Corp. In Phase 2, Turany questioned when the rotating biological contactor (RBC) would be taken offline.

“Would it be pretty seamless, going from the RBC to the activated sludge?” asked Turany.

Oium said they would have to remove the current RBC before they can put in a second clarifier, because of space.

“Again, it’s how long do you feel comfortable with the RBC?” said Oium. “That’s getting to be kind of old technology now. A lot of treatment plants are going away from that, but can you buy time? It’s just a matter of how long.”

In the end, it all came down to cost. With Phase 1 of $4.29 million, users would see a $25.31 increase each month, based on what they are currently paying and what the future increase would be. If the city received principal forgiveness, it would be a $19.98 increase on the monthly bill.

With Phase 2, the project would cost an estimated $7.14 million, with a $53.31 increase, or, $48.31 with forgiveness.

So, with Phase 1 and Phase 2 in staged implementation, the project would be $11.43

See PHASED APPROACH CHOSEN/ Page 4 million, while user costs would increase to $129.23 ($108.57 based on forgiveness).

If Phase 1 and 2 were completed together, the project would cost an estimated $8.5 million, with a $57.31 increase on user bills each month ($51.98 principal forgiveness).

Oium says once they go through the bidding process, Cedar Corp. hopes the project costs come in lower than estimated, but wanted members to be prepared.

“There are some savings when you do go phases, but that’s truly up to you,” said Oium. “We’ll design what you tell us you want.”

“I don’t feel ready to vote,” said council member Ashley Carothers, adding that Phase 1 is probably the way to go.

City administrator Dave DeJongh said the council needed to direct Cedar Corp. on which way to go, to which mayor Mark Larson agreed.

“I personally don’t see how we can do Phase 1 and Phase 2 right now,” said Turany, “and stick the average user with…basically, a $50 increase. I guess I can’t see that.”

Derek Braun, utility/city works superintendent, asked the council when they thought Phase 2 would be accomplished if they didn’t do the project all at once.

“See how Phase 1 does,” said council member Floyd Hickethier.

Turany said he thought they should make some improvements with Phase 1, to “kick one of the cans down the road.”

“It may cost us money later, obviously,” said Turany.

Braun said the projects should have been addressed 10-15 years ago.

“That’s why we’re at where we’re at,” he said. “Because, there are definitely things that need to be addressed still, that aren’t even on the project.”

The 30-year-old treatment plant is “living on borrowed time,” and Braun says he looks at equipment and wonders when it will break.

“Some of that stuff, we’ve nursed this far along,” said Hickethier.

Council member Terry Smith said he agrees with Turany, that phased projects are the way to go. Bill Kvapil, council member, said he wished they had more time to see if they could find used parts from sand plants to implement at the treatment plant, but with the lack of time, agreed with Phase 1.

“I think I look at it as the big picture, as opposed to looking at it as someone’s bill’s going to go up this much right now,” said Korger. “Right now, great, my bill’s not gone up, but down the road, my bill’s going to increase more, because the project was staged, rather than getting it done at a lesser rate and making my bill not go up as much.”

Braun asked if it is worth it to have sludge storage on the project plan, and, if not, he said the council would have to accept that the city may have to pay to have someone haul the sludge to another treatment plant to dispose of it. Braun suggested Cedar Corp. take off the storage to save some money and ask for alternate bids to see what it would cost.

Jarrod McCurdy, project manager for Cedar Corp., said there could be a five-year spread between the two phases.

“Obviously, that’ll adjust up or down, based on however you want to implement those phases,” said McCurdy.

McCurdy says the DNR has not set down any mandates for the treatment plant and that it is running on the service life of its equipment. McCurdy says Cedar Corp. does need to define the treatment facility plan to let the DNR know what work is going on, as they are aware the city has had issues with much of the equipment.

“You don’t have any driving force from the DNR,” said McCurdy. “As long as you can maintain treatment at the plant, you don’t have any changes on your limits.”

Braun said the council has had “eyes on” the proposed updates since 2016.

“We still haven’t started,” said Braun.

“I’m not comfortable moving ahead with Phase 2 at this time,” said Turany. “Phase 1, I am comfortable with.”

With all opinions weighed in, Larson called for a motion. A motion to go with the phased approach and start the process for Phase 1, was voted on, and passed, with five in favor (Carothers, Hickethier, Kvapil, Turany, Smith) and one opposed (Korger).

“Obviously, we need to move this thing along,” said Turany. “We’ve talked about it for four years.”