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Wastewater pond estimate plummets

By Seth Schmidt

 

Tracy leaders have gotten good news about the projected cost of planned wastewater treatment ponds.

Consulting engineers from the I&S Group now calculate the cost of the sewage stabilization ponds at just over $7.8 million.  The latest cost projection is $3.4 million less than the previous  $11.2 million estimate for a split-pond wastewater system

Two major factors have resulted in the dramatically less expensive estimate. 

Revised plans require the city to buy less land for smaller ponds, and not require wastewater to be piped several miles away to a secondary pond site.  All of Tracy’s proposed wastewater ponds will be located at a single, 70-acre site.  The city recently obtained a purchase option on 70-acres of farmland land owned by Linda and Dennis Fultz northeast of the city airport.

The smaller wastewater design has been made possible by reduced flow levels to the current wastewater ponds.  The smaller volume is attributed to past city efforts to reduce levels of clear drainage water entering the city’s sanitary sewers.

Several years ago, using older flow data, engineers thought that the city would need more than 155 acres of land to build a new wastewater pond system.

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The smaller wastewater pond estimate may make it possible for the city to afford to do additional sewer and water infrastructure improvements.

Chris Larson, consulting engineer for I&S, asked for, and received, council approval to include a list of potential “Phase III”  infrastructure improvements into the city’s wastewater treatment project application with the federal Rural Development agency. Larson and City Administrator Mike Votca recommended that the Phase III improvements be included in the wastewater application because of the possibility that the city would qualify for long-term, low interest financing from Rural Development.  Council members were told that the Phase III improvements are needed, and should be constructed sometime in the future. By including the “Phase III” needs in a larger financing package from Rural Development, the city likely would save significant amounts of money, compared with the cost of borrowing money through the sale of a bond.  A city-backed bond would likely have a much greater interest rate than a loan obtained through Rural Development.

The council was told that Rural Development has calculated an $11.5 million “loan affordability” for Tracy.   That means that combined projects up to $11.5 million will qualify for long-term, low-interest loans.  Spending over $11.5 million might qualify for partial grant fund.

Utility improvements now underway on Fourth and Morgan streets are considered “Phase I” of the city’s infrastructure improvements.  A $3.8 million “Phase II” is planned in northeast sections of Tracy next year.

“Phase III” projects, if Rural Development financing is obtained, likely won’t be constructed until 2017, according to Votca

City leaders are hoping to hear soon whether Rural Development will approve financing for the wastewater pond construction.  Larson said that if Rural Development supports current engineering specifications for the wastewater treatment system, the city could have a Rural Development funding answer as early as August 7.  If not, the city would have to wait until January for a funding decision.  In either scenario, Larson feels it is possible that construction on the wastewater ponds could begin in 2016.

The city is being required by the state to correct deficiencies in its wastewater treatment system.  The existing lagoons leak, and cannot handle volumes during peak flow periods.