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Archive for Thursday, April 20, 1995

WATER, SEWER UPGRADE COST

April 20, 1995

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New water tanks, sewer lines and storage basins could add up to higher utility bills.

Engineering consultants say the city needs to spend $120 million in the next decade to keep the city's water and sewer systems up to date.

During a study session Wednesday afternoon, engineers from Black & Veatch outlined the recommendations included in their master plans for the two systems.

The estimated price tag includes expansions to the city's wastewater treatment plant in East Lawrence and Clinton Water Treatment Plant off Wakarusa Drive.

"You've just grown beyond the limits of the original system," said Steve Phillips, project manager for Black & Veatch.

What Phillips did not recommend, however, was how to pay for the recommended improvements, which range from $120,000 for installing pressure-reducing valves to $43.5 million for expanding the wastewater plant.

Commissioners will tackle that question later. Phillips said Black & Veatch could perform a rate study, but it would be under a different contract than the $291,000 provided for the studies just completed.

The city already has increased utility rates 8 percent in each of the past five years.

"Nobody wants to see rate increases on down the line -- least of all us -- but it's a fact of life," Mayor Bob Moody said. "Everything costs more every year."

What the city would get for its $120 million is increased reliability, better service, compliance with state and federal regulations and the ability to handle growth in the city, particularly on its western and southeastern edges, Phillips said.

North Lawrence needs particular attention for its current needs, he said. Next year's recommended projects include two new pump stations and three sewer relief lines. In 1998, a new $1.8 million distribution line should be extended through the Santa Fe Industrial Park -- home to the Kmart Distribution Center, Packer Plastics and Quaker Oats -- and across the Kansas Turnpike bridge into the neighborhood.

Without it, North Lawrence relies on a single water line stretching across the Kansas River bridge.

"If anything happens in that area, we have a serious problem," Phillips said.

As for sewer service, the plan recommends boosting the capacity of the city's only treatment plant, which was built in 1956 and expanded once, in 1975.

The expansion would allow growth on the city's west side, if coupled with other improvements -- including construction of a five-acre, concrete-lined open-air holding basin near the northwest corner of Kasold Drive and 31st Street.

"The existing facilities have reached their service life," said Matt Schultze, project engineer.

Gary Toebben, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, isn't surprised by the recommended projects and costs.

"We have essentially been living the last 20 years on improvements that were made by lots of people years ago," he said. "I guess it's our turn to help build the next system."

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