Columbus approves $249k wastewater treatment plant engineering contract

Published 12:38 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Town approved for zero financing on $2.75M state loan
The Town of Columbus took another major step last week by signing a $249,250 contract with engineers to design a waste waste treatment plant (WWTP) renovation.
Columbus Town Council met Tuesday, May 17 with Brian Tripp, W. K. Dickson & Company’s vice president, who has been working with the town on the project.
Tripp told council that he has spoken with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since the town’s April meeting, and was told the state will loan the town the money for the $2.75 million upgrade at zero interest. The town was previously looking at 2.445 percent interest on the loan. Receiving the funding at zero interest will save the town $38,000, Tripp said.
Columbus was notified in April that it was awarded a loan from the DENR Construction Grant and Loans Section Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program. The loan will be for 20 years with reimbursements beginning after construction begins. The town included the engineering contract funding in next year’s budget and will be reimbursed for the costs from the loan.
Columbus is also considering its budget for 2011-2012, with proposals for sewer rates to increase beginning next year to pay back the loan. Columbus Town Manager Jonathan Kanipe submitted his budget proposal to council last week with a 10-percent proposed increase in sewer rates next year.
Tripp told council the town will begin paying back the loan as early as Nov. 1, 2013 or as late as May 1, 2014, depending on when construction begins. There is a June 2012 deadline for plans to be submitted to the state. Tripp has said construction could begin around January 2013.
W. K. Dickson is currently working to complete the preliminary engineering report (PER), environmental assessment (EA) and engineering report (ER) for the project, with total costs for that work being $38,000. The town previously paid W. K. Dickson $10,000 for the PER and EA.
Columbus council members visited the town’s wastewater treatment plant last October. After that visit, members said the town has no choice but to upgrade its plant. The town’s WWTP is 40 years old and no longer meets state standards. Upgrades needed include replacing several aspects of the plant. The plant will remain at its current capacity of 800,000 gallons per day following the upgrade.
Original plans were for the town to rehabilitate the wastewater treatment plant as well as making upgrades to the hospital pump station and bringing a fifth well online, but the state looked more favorably on awarding the loan if only the WWTP upgrade was included.
Council also on Tuesday, May 17 agreed to replace two pumps at the hospital pump station for an estimated $19,000.
The money to replace the pumps will come from the water/sewer fund, which as of last week had a surplus of $174,000, according to assistant finance officer Kathy Gregory. Gregory said if approximately $20,000 is used to replace the pumps, that cost, combined with other expenses for the fund, would decrease the water/sewer surplus to $60,000.
Kanipe said replacing the 40-year-old pumps would complete a significant portion of needed upgrades to the hospital lift station.
The town expects to have the pumps replaced by the end of this fiscal year, which is June 30. The new budget year, with expected increases in sewer rates to pay for the treatment plant upgrades, will begin July 1.
W. K. Dickson will handle all designing and reporting of the WWTP project as well as the bidding process.

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