Danedri Thompson
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Gardner city officials will continue to research adding capacity at an as-yet-built Edgerton sewer treatment plant to be constructed near the intermodal.
During a work session last week, city council members agreed to fund a $14,000 study to determine whether hooking onto Edgerton’s wastewater plant could save the city money in the future.
Jeff Keller of Burns & McDonnell conducted the preliminary study and told council members on Feb. 20 that purchasing an expansion at Edgerton’s facility would likely lead to significant savings in the future.
Specifically, Keller said connecting the southwest portion of Gardner to the Edgerton facility near the intermodal would require laying less pipe than if that part of Gardner were to connect to Gardner’s Kill Creek wastewater plant in the future.
“It’s less pipe, to make it short and sweet,” Keller said. “…It’s a shorter distance, and it’s primarily downhill to the Edgerton plant.”
However, Edgerton officials will not know a final price tag to construct the facility until mid-March. In the meantime, Keller said if Gardner hopes to connect to Edgerton’s facility, they’ll need to make a decision in early March to recognize the most savings.
With a quick decision, Keller said Gardner would likely realize between $7 million and $8 million in savings on future sewer treatment expansion costs.
He warned that those numbers were simple projections based on conservative figures.
“These numbers are not written in stone, but there’s a significant savings of some sort,” Keller said.
He estimated a final cost for adding on to Edgerton’s treatment plant – to be accrued over three phases over the course of several years – to be between $16 million and $20 million.
Sewer upgrades are typically funded through sewer rates, Laura Gourley, city finance director told council members.
She offered very rough numbers in the cost to sewer customers. She estimated that if the city took 20 years loans to fund the project, and if the city had to borrow the full amount up front and there was no growth, sewer rates would need to increase by approximately 47 percent to pay the estimated $1.6 million annual debt payment.
Melissa Mundt, assistant city administrator, said growth would lower those costs.
“And that’s assuming you’re doing it all at once,” she said.
Keller said one benefit of adding to Edgerton’s plant is that capacity can be added to the Edgerton plant gradually in phases, limiting up-front costs.
“Initially your first cost is going to be very small,” Dave Green, public works director, said.
However, he said the costs are unavoidable in the future. Sewer capacity will need to be added somewhere in Gardner.
“You’re going to have to pay eventually,” he said.
Keller told the council that time is of the essence. He anticipates construction on the project will begin as early as April
Council member Larry Fotovich asked how long Burns & McDonnell had been working on an Edgerton sewer project. Keller said they’d been on the project for more than a year.
“Why didn’t someone come to us about three months ago?” Fotovich asked. “…Anytime someone asks me to make a quick decision on a large purchase, that makes me a little nervous.”
Keller said the idea of the two cities cooperating on such a project came up approximately four weeks ago.
Keller said there is a risk involved in doing the project.
“The risk is this is based on the assumption that there will be development in those basins and it will be in a short amount of time,” Keller said.
City council members agreed to create a task force that will work with Edgerton city officials to negotiate the terms of a proposal for both cities to build and operate a future sewer plant.
Initially, Mayor Dave Drovetta asked Fotovich and council member Chris Morrow to serve on the task force, however Fotovich declined the appointment. Newly-appointed council member Heath Freeman will serve on the task force instead.