Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hailey sewer bond could exceed $5M

April meeting scheduled to answer questions

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey could ask voters to pass a bond in the near future to cover expenses of up to $5.1 million for a new “dewatering” facility at the Woodside wastewater treatment plant.

The city has paid $70,000 so far to HDR Engineering in Boise to provide a cost estimate for demolition of a fiberglass dome at the site and construction of an upgraded replacement building. The cost estimate ranges from $3.3 million to $5.1 million.

To get a more specific estimate, with 90 percent accuracy, the city could spend up to $200,000 more.

“It’s like death by a thousand cuts,” said Councilman Don Keirn about the estimation process during a City Council meeting last week. 

According to data supplied in a recent report by HDR Engineering, the installation of water meters in Hailey in 2007 led to a decrease of flows into the sewer plant. The population of Hailey increased from 7,410 in 2007 to 8,090 in 2012, yet during the same period, per-capita household water use decreased from 86 gallons per day to 77 gallons per day.

The shift means the plant receives about 20,000 gallons less per day than it did in 2007.

Yet Public Works Director Tom Hellen said more chemical treatment to control bacteria and capture phosphorous and nitrogen has actually increased the  amount of sludge hauled from the plant to the Ohio Gulch dump.

“But it creates a cleaner effluent,” Hellen said. 

Treated effluent is discharged into the Big Wood River.

City Administrator Heather Dawson said in an interview that the city will likely increase sewer rates to fund more specific cost estimates, which would be necessary before approving a bond issue or starting construction.

Dawson said taxpayers are currently paying for the last nine years of a $4.5 million bond issued in 2001 to pay for a $7 million sewer plant upgrade. 

Last year, the 20-year bond and the city’s existing $2.4 million water bond were refinanced to take advantage of historically low interest rates.

“The city was able to save $1 million over the life of both bonds,” Dawson said.

Dawson said the Hailey City Council will hold a public hearing in April to present information on the city’s wastewater issues and to discuss the possible increase in sewer rates.

Tony Evans:

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