Columbus considers funding options for sewer plant repairs estimated at $2.5M

Published 12:54 am Friday, December 3, 2010

The Town of Columbus is currently considering how to fund needed repairs to its wastewater treatment plant.
The town discussed the need during its November meeting and reviewed estimates of how much the upgrades could cost. Those estimates indicate that the total cost would be $2,569,617, although the town will not know exact costs until the project is designed and goes out for bid.
The town has a few options, including doing the project in phases or financing the project either through a bank or through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Town council has expressed concern about a USDA loan, because the loan term is 40 years, which would be the estimated life of the repairs.
The plants’s clarifier is the main concern immediately. The cost of replacing the clarifier is estimated at almost $500,000. Other big ticket items include an estimated $200,000 for bar screen/grit removal, $110,000 for sludge disposal and $160,000 for aeration basin upgrades.
Council discussed recently the possibility of paying for the upgrades in phases with money from the town’s sewer fund, taking money out of fund balance, financing or a combination of options. The town recently raised water and sewer rates slightly, but the increase in revenue has not yet been determined.
“Do you think there’s any way we could make enough money in the sewer department to fund this ourselves without taking it out of fund balance?” council member Margaret Metcalf asked town manager Jonathan Kanipe.
Kanipe said he doesn’t know at this point and would be afraid to say yes.
Town council took a trip to the town’s wastewater treatment plant last month and also visited the Hendersonville treatment plant, which is similar in layout to the Columbus plant and has had recent upgrades.
The town has received estimates in the past on combining its system with Tryon and pumping sewage to Tryon’s plant. Columbus determined that those costs were too high, with estimates showing a cost of $6,812,350 to make the modifications needed for Columbus to send its sewage to Tryon.
The idea of having Saluda also send its sewage to Tryon has also been discussed. Total costs with Saluda added in are estimated at more than $11 million.
Columbus officials decided then that they would be better off upgrading their own treatment plant.
Estimates of costs to build a regional system were more than $19 million for Columbus and Tryon and almost $24 million including Columbus, Saluda and Tryon. Those estimates were done for all three towns in 2009 by McGill & Associates, PA.
The town has also received estimates on doing the wastewater treatment plant upgrades as well as upgrading its hospital pump station and getting its fifth well online. The total cost for that project is estimated at $3,541,092.
Council’s discussions recently have been focused on doing just the wastewater treatment plants upgrades first.
Columbus decided earlier this month to invite Brian Tripp of W.K. Dickson engineers to attend a meeting. Tripp has been working with the town on its wastewater treatment plant upgrade estimates as well as its preliminary engineering report  and possible grant funding to complete the preliminary engineering report and the environmental assessment needed for the project.
The town decided to ask Tripp to attend a meeting after the first of the year to discuss funding options after it gets its annual audit report from last year’s budget, which it will receive in December.

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