Columbus wastewater treatment rehab costs could increase $282k

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, February 2, 2012

Columbus’ plan to rehabilitate its wastewater treatment plant could include an additional $282,250 of costs for a new operator building and a second chlorine chamber.
Columbus Town Council met Thursday, Jan. 19 and spoke with engineer Brian Tripp with W.K. Dickson regarding the possible additions.
Columbus is working on plans to rehabilitate its outdated wastewater treatment plant, with original estimates at $2,750,000. If the additions to the project are made, engineer estimates put the total costs at $3,032,250.
The town has been approved to receive a no interest loan from the Construction Grants and Loans Section of the N.C. Division of Water Quality. Columbus recently received word that its engineering report has been approved by the state.
Tripp told council that the current wastewater treatment plant site has problems with the roof, the HVAC system and the flooring. He also said a second chlorine chamber could be added to the project to avoid having to shut down the flow in order to clean the one chamber.
“There’s an opportunity here to get those work items done at a reasonable price due to current construction costs,” said Tripp. “If costs come back too high, you could take those two items out.”
Council seemed in favor of adding the building because of its current condition. Board members had differing opinions on whether a second chlorine chamber is a necessity. If the two additions are designed it will cost approximately $25,000 more in design fees.
“I’m sorry but I’m not seeing the necessity of all of it,” said councilwoman Ernie Kan. “I understand why you see that we need it…. We could put that $25,000 towards the well. Don’t spread ourselves so thin that we put a burden on the people that live here.”
Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said he tends to agree with Kan.
“It seems like we could do something a lot less expensive (to improve the current chlorine chamber),” said McIntyre.
He suggested installing a valve in the current chlorine chamber to better control the flow coming back into the chamber.
One of the issues with having only one chlorine chamber is when it is cleaned twice annually and the flow stopped, all the backup sewage comes flushing back into the newly cleaned tank at once, officials said. Tripp said it puts the town at risk for violating its state permit during those times of cleaning.
Of the $25,000 in proposed new design fees, $7,500 is for the second chlorine tank design and approximately $18,000 is for the new building design. The second chlorine tank is estimated to cost approximately $57,500, including its design.
“Actually we’re just talking right now about $7,000,” said councilman Richard Hall. “Down the road we’ll be deciding whether to build it or not.”
McIntyre said the building at the wastewater treatment plant now is “pitiful.”
“My personal opinion is the lab has to be built,” McIntyre said. “My opinion is to leave the building and take out the chlorine chamber.”
Councilwoman Margaret Metcalf said her concern is that the additions may be needed in the future, and she worries it will end up costing the town more in the long run if the town pulls out needed projects.
“The only thing I’m thinking is, is it going to cost us more in the long run?” Metcalf said. “I’m just afraid if we start pulling this and pulling that then we’re not going to have the capacity to do the things we want to do when Columbus keeps growing. “
Tripp said his firm will take a look at putting in a valve for the current chamber, which should cost only around $2,000, and he won’t charge design fees.
Council tabled the issue and plans to discuss the additions further during its February meeting.
The project’s plans and specifications are due to the state by June 1. The town plans to advertise and receive bids in December and begin construction as early as January 2013.
The town plans to pay for the financing of the project through its enterprise fund rates, with a 10 percent increase in sewer rates implemented this fiscal year.

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