Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mayor: Must replace wastewater plant

Fee increase could pay for research

Express Staff Writer

    Water and sewer fees for the city of Hailey could rise soon, as the Hailey City Council continues to research how to pay for a series of design studies for a new wastewater treatment plant in Woodside.
    The city has paid $69,000 so far to HDR Engineering in Boise to provide a cost estimate for demolition of a fiberglass dome at the existing treatment plant and construction of an upgraded replacement building. The cost estimate ranges from $3.3 to $5.1 million.
    Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said in a City Council meeting on Monday, April 15, that the biosolids plant was built in the mid 1970s and is in desperate need of repair.
    “The dome itself is rotting,” he said. “The foundation of the dome is deteriorating, the pipes themselves are deteriorating. Everything in the facility is deteriorating.”
    Roger Parker, the city’s wastewater superintendent, said the catwalks that traverse the plant are also corroding, and that the fiberglass dome cannot handle any snow load. As a result, he said, the dome has to be heated, which drives up energy costs.
    “My concern is that one day someone walks on it and the catwalk goes,” he said. “There is only so much we can do.”
    HDR Engineering consultant Mike Zelner said that a new plant could help drive down energy costs as well as the cost of hauling the “sludge” from the plant to the Ohio Gulch Transfer Station south of Ketchum.
    “Right now, when the truck goes up to Ohio Gulch, you are hauling 98.5 percent water,” he said.
    The new plant would include a dewatering area that makes for thicker sludge and would reduce the number of hauling trips from eight per week to one per week.
    Zelner said that to get a 90-percent-accurate estimate of the final costs for the plant, however, it would cost the city of Hailey more than $400,000—including the $69,000 already paid to HDR Engineering for preliminary work. The work could be completed in time for a May 2014 election to request approval of a bond issue to pay for the plant, he said. A 60-percent-accurate estimate would cost about $270,000 and could be completed in time for a November bond election.
    Public Works Director Tom Hellen said in a news release that the benefits of a more accurate estimate is that the city could then potentially bond for a lower amount. He said in the April 15 meeting that if the city were to base the bond election solely on preliminary estimates, the city would have to bond for $5 million.
    Hellen suggested that the city could increase water and sewer fees to pay for further engineering studies. Though he did not have a specific fee increase schedule, he said the city of Hailey’s fees were the lowest he had found in the state, and would remain among the lowest even if the city did slightly increase them.
    “Even with raising these, we are still at the bottom part when compared with other cities across Idaho,” he said.
    No final decisions were made on April 15, but Haemmerle and the council directed city staff to develop a “thoughtful fee structure” that would pay for the engineering studies needed before the city can go to a bond election.
    “One way or another, [the plant] has to be replaced,” Haemmerle said.

Kate Wutz:

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